Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rescuing volunteer spuds

Strange clouds -- low, heavy-looking, yet raggedy around the edges like mares-tails, and apt to refract sunlight from odd corners -- have been scudding through for weeks. Risa doesn't know quite what to make of them. She's seen others complain online about these clouds too -- in California, Washington, and British Columbia. The stuff of conspiracy theory, apparently.

Meanwhile, it has rained little enough that she's ready to begin watering. Here's the reason for those fifty-foot beds: a fifty-foot sprinkler hose.

Beloved is transplanting today, so Risa's been assigned to remove all the volunteer potatoes from a couple of designated beds, which will specialize in runner bean, squash, and cucumbers. There are already new potatoes under such vines, so Risa got out her ho-mi and grabbled for them -- the proper word for seeking out new potatoes. This was more of a seek-and-destroy than true grabbling, but just as fun. Beloved watched the new tool at work from the corner of her eye, and later, when taking a switchel break, said:

"I, uh, I want one of those."

Friday, June 17, 2011

June garden tour

A slow year, but better so far than the drowning we got in 2010. Clockwise from left, perennial flower/mint bed, chicken moat, sunchokes. orchard (in chicken moat), Planet Flag, Grapes, greens/beans bed, tomato bed with tomatoes and kale.

A closer look at the greens bed: lettuce, bok choi, chard, collards, elephant garlic mostly.

Looking across the tomatoes toward what's left of the (once one-acre) lawn. Just enough room for badminton.

Looking back toward the house from the lower beds. Mostly you can see rhubarb, grapes, an apple tree, and the compost heaps. Note mailbox at left full of garden tools. White roof aids in fighting off heat waves (just in case).

Thursday, June 09, 2011


The gardens in the Pacific Northwest these days are slow starters (last year was almost a non-starter). The lettuce, collards, kale and bok choi (which has bolted) have gotten rolling at last, but the peas are all of six inches tall, no more than the beans. At such times we look to our perennials and overwintered items to give us a morale boost. In the picture above, there's plenty of rhubarb, elephant garlic, and volunteer potatoes.

Some of the spuds have come up where they are not wanted, such as in the paths. Instead of just ripping them out or hoeing the top growth away, Risa explores the ground underneath them for "new potatoes:"

Here is a mother spud with her daughters. The "mother," a spud that was missed in last year's harvest, is often inedible by this time, but in a pinch you can use some of them:

To show that "it can be done," let's wash the old and the young together ...

cut them to bite size. About half the old spud proved to be usable ...

... and add a bit of oil and some of our specialty, solar dried and ground vegetable leaves (such as the side foliage from kale, cabbages, collards, chard, and spinach). it's our primary spice hereabouts. Stir, cover, and zap for four and a half minutes or steam for fifteen or so (your steamer may vary), and it's a perfect side dish or stand-alone lunch. Thrifty and not at all bad.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Take a hike

To take her mind off some things a bit, Risa went up to Fall Creek with Last Son; we walked for three hours. That covered only a small portion of the trail; it's over twenty miles long. It's not far at all from Stony Run.

As you can immediately grasp, we're not really the best farm country. But we're fairly scenic!

He's the same age as Risa was when she came to work in these woods ... no, actually about two years older! How time flies when you're having fun. We identified Douglas fir, Western hemlock, Bigleaf maple, Viney maple, Cascara, Pacific yew, mountain willow, mountain alder, thimbleberry, salmonberry, false Solomon's seal, skunk cabbage, trillium, twinflower, bleeding heart, wood sorrel, maidenhair fern, sword fern, bracken, miner's lettuce, wild ginger, vanilla leaf. And banana slugs. 

Oh, and a merganser. The young man observed, from a pretty good ways away, that the duck did not have the broad bill that our farm ducks or mallards have. Do they eat different stuff? "Bingo," said Risa. "They eat fish!" "Ahh!" he said. "That explains it." Risa was really proud of him.

Contemplates washing his muddy boots
Mission accomplished

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Holes to go

Risa wants to try out her new Ho-mi, or "Korean Hoe." The weather for once is cooperating. Let's gather up our flats of peas, corn, and butternut squash and our kneeling bench and head out. Wait! First, let's admire the irises and stuff. Sorry about the ornamental poppies, they're over two weeks behind, this year.

So, let's get down to it; ground level. Risa doesn't know what she'd do without her bench.

First, we pull away the mulch. This is a lasagna garden, so one of the layers down there is flattened cardboard (with plastic tape and labels removed). It's very soggy and pulls aside right along with the straw, compost and grass clippings.

Next, open the earth a little. The tool is heavy enough to whack right in, one-handed -- just like swinging a hammer or hatchet. Ignore the camera strap at stage right!

Grab a pot, invert it, squeeze, lift it away, flip the contents into the hole right-side-up, and tamp.

Now pull back some of the mulch over the "hill" to hide the tender starts from the starlings, who are being bad this year. They're attracted by the "disturbed soil" look of the black potting mix, seems like. They dig up seeds and crack them, hence the emphasis on pots this year.

Done? Great! Bump down the bed a ways; only seventy-one more holes to go...

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

These will outlast us

Risa's oldest has been here and brought his stunning wife and fabulous daughters, so blogging has been among the things held in abeyance while granddaughterly activities were in full swing. So many blessings! And now the nest is empty once again...

As it is still raining cats & dogs (and they seem to be fighting on their way down), let's stay indoors and admire the future of gardening at Stony Run, there being not much of a gardening present.

Beloved's trowel has gone missing and she needs a traditional trowel -- can't use Risa's, as Risa's has been modified to work like a traditional Korean tool, the Ho-mi. Very different work style (arthritis in different joints). But it's a cheap model, and always threatening to fall apart. So Risa has ordered a hers-and-hers matching set:

They are both by the same company and have gel-filled handles to reduce shock.

We're not used to laying out quite so much cash to acquire things of this kind, but the reasoning here is that it is hoped these will outlast us.