Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Work Party

Dave, my brother in law, has been experiencing some intense allergies. Like, unable to function, wheezing, puffy eyes, maybe should carry around an epi pen, allergies. By far the worst seasonal allergies I've ever seen. Apparently it's the grass going into bloom and we have enough pesky difficult-to-trim edges and corners to send Dave into melt-down mode. So mom sent out a last minute Facebook status asking for extra helpers to get all this grass under control.

Many thanks to my mom and Dave's parents who trimmed, pulled, and weed-whacked the yard into submission. My brother, Loren, did some pulling and a bit more wood chopping. Then Mom and I did a bunch of harvesting and general garden management.

Pulled the last of the blooming broccoli. We got five full flushes out of it before it went to the goats. Top left are transplanted peppers and to the right are arugula sprouts specifically for Sustainable Renton since I have a hard time making it to the Community Garden regularly. I'll fill in the rest of the open space with more Arugula. Please notice the funny little volunteer potato bottom left. It's actually in the pathway but I hate to pull up volunteers. Seems like such a waste.

 Lapins cherries! I can't tell you how excited I am for cherries again! We had a beautiful Bing tree growing up with many great memories.

Braeburn apples!

Giant blueberries! Not as much flavor as the smaller ones but we will forgive them since they are the first of the season and are oh so easy to pick.

 The potato field is doing nicely and due (actually, overdue) to be mounded over with more material. We are using wood chips, of course! We have intermixed red, Yukon gold, and French fingerling potatoes.

 Apparently, this is what quinoa looks like. My first planting was too early so all I got were these three. Not to worry, I planted more and they are just sprouting. I'm told their leaves are good in salads, soups, and stir frys even before the heads go to seed. This is my experiment crop for the season.

 Various crops gone to seed and a bowl of pea shells for the goats. Nevermind composting; how about changing greens into milk? Magic!

Om nom nom. 
(Abi actually says nom nom which I find insufferably cute.)

Then we went to a wedding in which our little princesses were flower girls.

Daddy luvs!

Current to-do list:
 - Weed blueberries
 - Mound around potatoes
 - Plant arugula
 - Plant Royal purple beans (in the box where seeded greens were just pulled).
 - Harvest stuff every day!

If you are ever available to swing by and help out a bit we could always use it and always appreciate it. At this point you can either take a bag of greens home with your or take an IOU for later harvest.

P.S. As if all that wasn't enough, Katherine is overdue for her second child and just might be going into active labor tonight as opposed to pre-labor for the last three weeks! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pests and Promising Produce

  The slugs have helped themselves to a few of my lemon cucumber sprouts. One the rain clears up (yes, it is once again raining in the PNW. Nevermind that it is almost July.) the situation calls for MORE BEER! Just bought a 12 pack of Miller or somesuch cheap swill.

My corn is looking pretty sad. It has been in the ground for 6 weeks and were healthy sprouts from the grow lamps before that but they haven't grown much since then and they're looking anemic. My working theory is the root systems are having a hard time transitioning from the growing medium to the newly covered soil. I think the things to do differently next time are to surround the sprouts totally with soil rather than half soil half wood chips and try to plan things better so as to have enough space prepped more than a few weeks beforehand. For space sake they ended up planted in the new section covered just this spring. Now I know why you should have the wood chips down for at least the fall and winter before using them to plant. They haven't broken down into plant accessible material yet and it is dry for two or three inches instead of one inch. Since the heavy rains started a few of these groupings of corn have really started to darken and flesh out. I think they broke roots through the wood chip layer and into the soil below.

On the other hand it is the second year my raised beds have been covered with wood chips and everything in them is going bonkers! The peas grew so fast and so beautiful we didn't get the trellises set up in time for them to climb very much before they blew over in some wind. These things are by far the tallest and sturdiest peas I've ever grown. For the first time I have bulb onions actually growing a healthy bulb and all nine of us can't keep up with the leafy greens coming. 

Walla walla onions, red sails lettuce, beet sprouts, and bok choi all doing marvelously.

Beginning to have a consistent harvest of greens, peas, and now red berries!  
The blueberries are not far behind.

 I am still retraining my taste buds to get excited over so much chewing and a lack of refined grains and sugars - note a delicate portion of ravioli and white sauce to ease transition. But the way I feel afterward is so much  more refreshed, light, able to continue the day rather than succumb to food coma. These fibers and plant proteins also cause me to eat smaller portions more spread out in the day because that is what my gut wants and that voice is becoming easier and easier to hear. Take that, poorly programmed brain! 

P.S. I'm mucking around with some formatting. Let me know if you have any preferences for readability or ease of use. Thanks!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Recent Readings

Food Policy:
A new meat label that certifies that no GMO products went into the growth of the animal. Yay!

Monsanto claims the recent discovery of illegal, untested GMO wheat in Oregon which kicked off a spate of countries banning import of wheat from the state was actually an act of sabotage by "elite" critics of GMO products. Something smells fishy here...

A technique of cellular delivery a long time coming is finally into human testing. The possibilities are fantastically endless and dangerously endless.

Raspberry Buttermilk Ice Pops  (probably will also be delish with yogurt)

Soup Ladies receive award for volunteer catering for first responders. Pretty sure they catered the search and rescue effort for my friend lost from our hiking group five years ago...

Portable chicken coop. IMHO the best and easiest way to house a few chickens in a relatively small space.

 Recent harvest! Yum!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fresh Food and Worship

Have you noticed that when your plate is full of fresh produce, healthy grains, and basic proteins your thoughts more quickly go to our Creator than when you're eating a big Mac?

I have been ruminating on this little epiphany for a few weeks now. When what I am eating has fewer steps between God's creative process and me there are fewer distractions, fewer man-glorifying details. When a new piece of technology comes out that makes my life easier do I naturally say "Thank you, Lord, for giving us the tools to communicate with every person on the planet" or do I say "Wow! What a piece of human ingenuity!" I am humbled how often I praise the created and forget the Creator. Moreover, I think that deep down we all recognize that the closer our food is to the state in which it is grown the more nutritional and, often, tasty it will be. Coincidence? I think not.

Apparently, the food industry has picked up on this detail long before I did. The Boston Globe ran an article  yesterday about how food that looks more like food sells better. So they are working on ways to make food look more "natural" without actually changing any of their policies or handling processes. Sure, this is yet one more way we need to be careful what we buy and from whom but I think this also highlights part of our innate understanding: we're not very good yet at improving on the natural state of food. I wonder if we ever will be.

On a related note, next on my book wish list is Michael Pollan's new book "Cooked". It covers the history of our discoveries of food and how to make that food more nutritionally available for our bodies. Something I plan on learning more about this fall is fermenting. I already do a lot of canning and pickling and the idea of the natural flora on my hands and time as the only ingredients to transforming veggies into something more tasty and nutritious is... maybe holy. I see that process in myself.

"For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb."
Ps. 139:13 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Another Delay

A delay in Shoshana's recovery has interrupted my beautifully planned blogging schedule that was to start this week. I have a partially written post intended for today that I just can't seem to get back to. Not only did she not qualify for a trial to see if her trach tube could be removed, she will need at least one super specialized surgery to repair scar tissue in her throat that the medical field cannot explain.

Yet again, no one can explain or predict my daughter.

I'm going to bed. Probably engaging in more gardening therapy tomorrow. But first, bed.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Busy Day, Busy Season

Today was quite the whirlwind! While working I coordinated calls from the insurance company and Children's Hospital for Shoshana's upcoming procedure and overnight stay. On the way home I picked up alfalfa for the goats and feed for the chickens, I dropped the chicken feed at my sister's house, returned home to make dinner (taco salad with homemade yogurt instead of sour cream and dry ricotta crumbles and all colors of the rainbow...pinterest worthy but no time), sat down for a few minutes then returned to my sister's/mom's house to do some gardening. Whew! It's that time of year again!

With the sun out more consistently and the weather finally warming up (the first person I hear complain about the "hot" weather gets a karate chop to the throat), no matter what else is going on, the garden needs tending for at least an hour each day. This evening mom and I battled the mosquitoes and falling darkness to get my parsley, Thai basil, cinnamon basil, and Santa Maria Pinquito dry beans transplanted. It was a draw. We made it just in time to water them, harvest some leafy greens, and do some basic tidying. Unfortunately, we didn't finish in time to take any pictures unless you like out of focus black and gray shadows. You can thank me later for not cluttering up your screen with those.

Oh, hey! Check out the cute bomb! You're welcome.


Ahem. Where was I?

BASIL! I can't get enough of it so don't ask me to sell you any. But donations toward the greenhouse where basil is easier to grow would not go amiss.

On the way to the car I trimmed the spinach, kale, and little broccoli offshoots. Amazing how much you can get from a quick tip trim and the plant is still intact to keep growing and producing! Next I pulled up some leafy greens that had bolted. Generally, putting seed heads in the compost is a bad idea. Good thing I have goats! They were so intent on eating the presents so quickly they actually choked a few times. They really are quite adorable even when stuffing their faces. Earlier they got the leftover Veronica broccoli plants and did much the same thing. Goat picture!


Tomorrow: on call vs. Home life.
Friday: Shoshana's procedure. Please keep us all in your prayers.

Goodnight moon, goodnight lamp, goodnight pillow, goodnight companion cube... zzz zzz.

(This is my first attempt at posting from my phone. Let me know if you experience any technical difficulties.)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Late Spring Update

Thanks to little to no day nurse coverage for Shoshana for the last month those who are trained to take care of her are practically zombified (making up words is fun!). Working so hard to survive day to day tasks leaves no time for blogging. Rest assured we are continuing to weed, plant, harvest, and care for the goats. Speaking of goats, one gardening filled evening Rosemary gave birth to two boys and one girl before we even knew she was in labor.

Our only girl out of six kids! She is so sweet.

The two boys. Rosemary is so sweet!

 The "cousins" are constant observers.

The plan was to leave the kids with Rosemary until two to three weeks when they could go a night separated from her. In the morning we milk the overnight milk and the kids eat during the day. Unfortunately, we forgot the Rosemary has never nursed her kids since we got her from a breeder who always bottle fed their kids to encourage friendliness. A very effective training mechanism which we used two years ago but since then we have not had the time to dedicate to hand feeding the babies four or five times a day for two weeks. Maybe once our girls are big enough to do it themselves we'll restart intentionally bottle-feeding; that is how our friends managed to do it every year. After a week of dutifully teaching the kids to eat from our bottles then transitioning them to the multi-feeder bucket (pictured above) we were completely exhausted. One evening feeding just about brought Tim and I to tears since all we wanted to do was catch as much sleep as possible, usually six or seven hours. The very next day when Tim went outside to feed the kids (I had already left for work) they weren't hungry. And later in the day they weren't hungry again. In the mid-afternoon my mom went out to feed the kids and caught the sight of Rosemary finally standing still and allowing her kids to nurse. Hallelujah! Mom tells me that being so tired herself, the day before this happened she prayed "Lord, you know how to teach Rosemary to feed her kids." 

Just a few days later we got word that our nursing agency was losing our last day nurse and, again, they were leaving the case without warning. That is a story in and of itself that will eventually be posted on Shoshana's blog but only that part is relevant here. My mom comforted me with the words that if the Lord could teach Rosemary to nurse her kids for the first time in her life he could get us the best nurse in the best timing.

That was two or three weeks ago and the main reason I haven't been available to blog. If you have seen me recently it has likely been without makeup, in need of a shower, and with short term memory problems.

Back to four weeks ago... we expanded the garden another step:

Corn and squash are now planted here.

An example of how easy weeding can be (not all dandelions come up with this much root but a lot of them do). The dirt is ridiculously soft and easy to work with. I don't use gloves any more. Just a hand rake.

Sunflowers, radishes, and fennel here.

Random picture of snuggling. ;)

First set of tomatoes were transplanted outside in large black pots positioned against the warmest part of the house and half in and half out of the chips to maximize the sun's rays. We won't be able to plant the other tomatoes in the yard for at least a month which is about now.

 Veronica broccoli/cauliflower hybrid. One seed I won't mind buying year after year. Delicate, buttery, and oh-so-sweet. But you won't get any secondary shoots like you do with broccoli. Definitely buying a lot more seed for fall and spring.

Thanks to the yearly spring clearance sale at Raintree Nursery, my go to place for fruit trees, bushes, and vines; I bought a few more plants from my wish list that ended up overstocked and on sale: Maria's Gold Nectarine, Dave's Delight Pear, Red Boskoop Apple, Chandler Blueberry, and, for my mom on Mother's Day, Pink Lemonade Blueberry. I still have a few cherries on my wishlist but as far as the pears, apples, plums, and nectarines I think we've maximized our space with a variety of flavors and storage species.

We have also begun a partnership with a local restaurant called Red House in downtown. The owner, Gene, has been interested in our family farm since we met at a local development meeting last year. This weekend we made our first delivery of rhubarb, eggs, and samples of goat cheese and ricotta. Other deliveries will be determined by our bumper crops and whether the chef is interested in making a special out of those.

Progress is continuing with Sustainable Renton Community Farm including a similar partnership with the Red House, increased participation in the Community Gardens, and on-site education. 

In the near future you can expect news on cheese, yogurt, fresh milk, additional harvests, and progress with the Community Farm. Large projects at our place still on the to do list include felling the second giant tree, rebuilding the disintegrating chicken coop, and building a greenhouse.

Phew! I think we're caught up now. Surely I've forgotten something relevant during this summary and, hopefully, I'll remember it and include it in the next post coming soon!

First Harvest!

It has been a while since my last update so we have a lot to catch up on! But let's start with the best news first: harvest of anything other than leafy greens came almost two months before harvest last year. Wow! Combination of grow lights and wood chips which have kept the soil at many degrees warmer than naked soil has allowed many things to get started early. Namely, the broccoli was ready to go! Actually, it and a few other things should have been harvested earlier in the week but I just didn't have the time to make the trip to my parent's house even though it is just a few blocks away. Let's just say life at home is much more complicated without a day nurse. Nevertheless the broccoli was delicious. Who cares whether it's in a tight head or loose stems? I actually prefer the stems. So glad we have more broccoli to come!