It’s All In the Details

Last weekend I was invited to a Dinner Party in the Garden by my friend Kris. i had been following her garden progress through spring and summer and it was lovely! I was slightly confused because she referred to the garden as the Sister Wives Garden, and not having seen her in a several months, wondered if she had become a polygamist. Of course I accepted the invitation and asked if I could bring my visiting cousins. Kris said Sure!, just bring a couple extra bottles of wine.

It was the hottest day of the year.  As we melted our way through the day, my friend Joel drove down from Olympia to join us, without AC, poor guy. He is planning to create a similar dinner party at home and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get some ideas. I know i did!

We arrived in Camas at the Sister Wives Garden. Two young gentlemen greeted us at the top of the road guiding us down a VERY STEEP HILL. As we made our way down the hill the valley opened up before us with a beautiful field, the garden and a table, with seating for 60. I audibly gasped. It looked like something from a magazine.

We parked the car and made our way over to the festivities. The first thing to catch my eye was the John Deere full of ice and wine bottles. I decided at that exact moment that if i own a farm, i will do exactly the same thing, every chance i get.

The appetizer table was piled with fresh fruit, cheeses, puffed pastries, blue cheese crackers with fig tapanade and of course gorgeous crudite from the garden.

Joel and I grabbed a glass of wine and made our way up the adjacent hill to take in the view, and find a patch of shade. The feeling of happiness was palpable. Everyone was enjoying themselves and so pleased to be there. After meeting some fantastic people, dinner was announced and we took our seats. Our meal was served family style and prepared by Kris! I cant imagine how early she had begun cooking!!!

We had a beautiful salad full of garden veggies, a caprese salad, roasted vegetables and chicken mushroom pasta. For dessert we had beautiful fruit tarts and smores around the fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could have stayed all night! the bon fire was keeping the mosquitos at bay and a slight chill in the air. A few hay bails had been arranged around the pit and covered with warm old quilts. Alas the time had come to say good-night as we drove bck up the VERY STEEP HILL.

Thank you Kris, Susie and Steve for inviting us to this really fantastic evening. I feel so lucky to have shared in it. And no, Kris is not a polygamist, she just has really awesome neighbors who love to garden, host beautiful dinner parties and celebrate the magic of a vegetable garden. My kind of people.

For more beautiful photos, you can view Marcie, the professional photographer’s photo album HERE

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Ode to a Fig

 

3 of my favorite things are truffles, figs and chickens, as my blog expresses. Lucky for me, I have 2 of these 3 things thriving in my back yard. I will work on the truffles. Early this morning, i was chatting with the chickens and watering the garden.  As I wander around the garden, checking things out, i also like to give my figs a gentle squeeze. I have been fawning over this fig tree all spring and summer, waiting, waiting, waiting for the squeeze to respond with that perfectly soft yield.

Today was the day! My first fig had grown enormous! It is about the size of a french pear. I plucked it from the vine, turned off the garden hose, tripped over a dog, and a chicken, without taking my eyes off this precious treat. I could already taste the sweet pink  flesh and slight crunch of the tiny seeds. Thoughts of goat cheese and honey, proscuitto and greek yogurt all buzzed around in my head but this baby was going to be enjoyed in it’s perfect natural form.

The variety i grow is called Conadria and has light green skin with a deep magenta flesh. They are super soft and sweet. My fig tree is 3 years old and is producing figs for the first time this summer. I have hundreds of figs growing slowly.

I think they are rediculously sexy too.

The Vision

I have a vision for myself. It is still a little fuzzy around the edges but none the less it is my vision.

I want a smallish farm. I want a lovely little farm house that is always full of light and treasures and people i love. I imagine myself making beautiful meals for friends and family while we sit out under a big old tree around an old beat up table that we have dragged outside from the kitchen. I see a  garden full of vegetables and fruit and herbs and honey bees and around the property i see sheep and dogs and cats and chickens and maybe a pig and a cow. I see a shed full of curing meats and cheeses and a cellar full of wine, onions and preserves. i imagine getting up at sunrise to feed and milk the animals and watch the sun rise while i tend to the details of the property.

I see a mr smallish farm who loves to laugh and wears big black boots. He is an enigma.  I will manage the farm and preserve the harvest for those cozy winter months of rain and muck. I see a big old fireplace with a comfy chair and a cat. The house wont be perfect but it will be perfectly quirky in just the way i like it.

So now that i have shared my vision, one which makes me swoon a bit, i also have to share my reality. I lost a chicken this morning and it sucked!  I see myself raising my own meat and being part of the butchering process…but that damn chicken nearly broke my heart. Perhaps it was because her name was Penelope and she was big and blond and lovely and she ran to me when i called her name. Unlike a “normal” farmer, i spent the last 10 days feeding her through a syringe full of buttermilk and tomatoes. i held her in my lap and washed her face. She cooed and purred and looked up at me with big trusting eyes. We were in love a little bit.

I woke up this morning at sunrise  to check on Penelope, tend to the other animals and water the garden. I tenderly laid Penelope to rest under the rosemary bush and somehow i felt at peace. I knew I could handle the farm life. Next time it will be a little easier. I feel like I had to pop the farm-girl cherry and was terrified. My vision stands firm. The fuzzy edges will clarify in time and i will forever be grateful to the animals who share their milk, eggs and lives with me.

RIP sweet Penelope. Thanks for being so gentle.

The Good, The Sad and The Blond

This summer has been really busy and lovely. I find myself in that tailspin, not quite believing it is already August, but getting just a little excited for fall…So to break down the last 2 months, I am on a waiting list for the graduate program I applied for and hoping I make it in by March. To keep myself occupied I have enjoyed  massive quantities of wine, er, i mean,  live music, the garden and long weekends, visiting my friends far and near.

 I am thoroughly enjoying my garden this year. I have a hard time collecting anything to create something else because i love to wander around just eating. My peas this year were prolific, which isnt a huge surprise after the cool spring and early summer.  I planted a cover crop of buckwheat and fava but the chickens took care of the seeds for me so i still have a bare patch of earth. I have HUGE figs ripening up, thousands of raspberries and big bunches of kale. I just replanted my beets and carrots in hopes of a fall crop. I also planted two elderflower trees and am hoping to make some cordials next year! (if i am not living in Italy of course)

I dont even recall if i HAD red tomatoes last year so this first red baby  is a huge treat. i finally found my sweet spot in the yard for these heat lovers. i am hoping for a great August harvest.

I also covered the back 40 with burlap to kill the weeds and prepare for a dump truck of wood chips and fall apple trees. This is also where the chickens will move, if  i ever get the coop rebuilt.

Beside the garden, I am in the process of painting The Green Bean, really really green! i started with the patio area to see what i thought of it. i LOVE the color and am hoping to start on the front of the house this next week. There is nothing shy about this color. I call this color Carl Green because I began painting the day after my friend Carl’s funeral. In tribute to him, I paint in bold color that makes me smile.

And lastly I am in the midst of a chicken crisis. My sweet sweet Penelope is quite ill. Over the past 2 weeks her comb has grown pale and her sparkle has disapeared. She always came to me for a pat and a treat, now she curls up in a corner and sleeps or stays in bed. This morning, i wrangled my friend Molly to help me minister Penny with some buttermilk. We are hoping that the probiotics and slick texture will clean her out and break down any blockage. Her comb went from green to bright cherry red after a good solid dose.  I had to take this shot of as she resigned herself to her milk coma. Fingers and toes are crossed.

I leave you with my new favorite summer love. Out local market, New Seasons, makes a great kale salad but i discovered a very similar recipe after a couple of trial and error batches.

the BEST KALE SALAD

1 bunch of kale
2 carrots
1/2 cup of sunflower seeds
1/4 cup of Annie’s Goddess Dressing

Wash the kale and stack the leaves out flat one on top of the next. Roll the leaves and using a sharp knife, cut the kale roll into thin strips.
Grate the carrots, peel and all and add too the kale
Toss in the sunflower seeds and dressing.

i know it sounds a bit  simplistic but the flavors of the sweet carrots, the toasted nuts and crisp kale are a perfect combination with the dressing.  it is the greatest salad I have had in ages. i eat it almost daily.

Ammending, and Composting and Worms, Oh My

 

Before i get too far behind i realize i need to start blogging about my Adventures in Gardening!  This Spring I have started the Organic Gardening Certification. This is the Organic Certificate that falls in line with the Master Gardening Program. Both are run through Oregon State University Extension programs.

My first week was rather overwhelming because it was 7 hours of new people, new information and lots of lectures about soil chemistry, proper gardening tools (this was my favorite point of the day) with Red Pig Tools and expectations for the next 11 weeks…gulp 11 weeks of saturdays learning about dirt, i mean soil.

So last saturday was week 2. We met out at Luscher Farm in West Linn and if you havent been out there yet, GO! it is so beautiful. The Luscher family ran a dairy farm for years and willed the land to the City of Lake Oswego to maintain it as an educational farm. Today it is a community garden, a beautiful park and the Oregon Tilth Farm.

We were told to dress for rain as we would be outside for most of the day. everyone showed up with rain boots, rain pants and coats. i even brought a hat, gloves and a fleece. Of course because of this, i got a sunburn! it was such a beautiful day. we heard the huge thunder storm roll by that hit portland but we missed it completely.

we started the day with garden planning. We talked about crop rotation benefits and cover crops. We started our ongoing project of mapping our own spaces which we will add to each week.

Then we headed outside to talk worm beds, condos and motels. i learned a few very important things. 

  • always cover your food matter with bedding.
  • the bedding can be coconut husks, newspaper or leaves and straw..or a combination of this stuff
  • the bedding should be moist like a wrung out towel.
  • mold is bad
  • bringing in garden worms is bad. no gentrification.
  • add a burlap cover to the top to keep in moisture if it gets hot.
  • citrus and evergreen is bad but eggsshells, coffee grounds and tea are good
  • fruitflies means too much food scrap so add more bedding
  • fruitflies can turn your worm bed into a maggot bed…YEACH!
  • keep it warm in the winter and have a lid to keep out the rain and sun

 

the worms should be super happy and create GORGEOUS organic matter for your garden in a fraction of the time it takes for a compost pile.

Next we talked Compost.  of course the compost bins at the garden were huge and gorgeous. Compost consists of Greens, Browns, Water and Soil. Greens can quickly become Browns and lose important nutrients if they arent mixed in soon after cutting.

Greens: leaves, grass clippings, sod but NO SEED OR WEEDS
Browns: Straw, twigs, dead leaves, coffee chaf
Nitrogen: coffee grounds and tea

place your compost in the sunshine to get hotter! a hot compost is much better then a slow cold compost. if you can get your compost up to 140 degrees it will also kill weeds…but it has to be turned and maintained for 15 days. if you are lazy, like me, put your weeds in a seperate pile.

Manure also needs to be composted in a seperate pile. to get the most out of your chicken, goat, cow poo, place it in a seperate pile with straw covering. and ammend your soil with the poo compost after a year so it isnt too hot.

Are you spinning yet? well we are just getting started so buckle up!

 

After a short lunch, we talked Cover Crops! this is fascinating to me and SO GOOD for your soil. there are winter, spring, summer and fall cover crops. the roots create these beautiful pearly pink balls that will assist your plants into collecting all the nutrients they need to grow big and beautiful


simply plant your cover crop and let it go.


when you are ready to plant, cut the tops off and


whack the rest into the soil.


then take a fork and turn the soil to get the roots and such on the underside. You can also cover them with  burlap bags at this point and within a week it will look like perfect soil.

there are so many kinds of cover crops that do different things. i am sold on the legumes. they are easier to incorporate and you can eat the pea shoots!

Sedan grass and Japanese Millet lay down nad mulch in well, there is a good bug blend that brings in all sorts of lovely buggies for your soil, Phacelia is a bee lover and buckwheat is fast and collects phosphorous which is great for squash and tomatoes.

All of this comes back to garden planning and crop rotation. For example if you have 5 beds, you can put a cover crop in the summer in 2 beds then in the fall you can plant those 2 beds while adding a cover crop in the fall to a couple different beds. rotate your cover crop types and placement to keep your soil rich and unabused.

Finally we met with the lovely and talented Naomi of Naomi’s organic farm supply.

she talked ammendments and filled our heads with magical potions to keep our soil happy and balanced. the big boys are N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S.

our soil in the NW tends to be low PH because of all the rain which is great for moss and rhodies but not so great for veggies. We can easily ammend this by adding Lyme.

as far as other ammending needs, there are so many options and each is personal to your own soil needs.

Coming Home to My Own Corner of Paradise

bluegrass

Can I take them home with me?

 I love to travel. I love seeing how other people  live and am always so astounded and pleased to see how similar people are all over the world. It doesnt matter if we live in mansions or mud huts, people want the same basic things in life; sated bellies, happy families, love, a sense of well-being. There is something comforting in this fact no matter how many thousands of miles you are from home. We can find connections anywhere, if we want to.

crepe

fresh veggie market crepe. perfection

 

That being said, i love to come home from my travel. I have not once landed at PDX and thought CRAP I’m home! This last trip was no different. Of course I am always a little sad to have ended my journey and am always discombobulated from time changes and airplane food. But it sorts itself out when i ease into my own bed and wake to see what has been happening around home.

 

On my first morning home, I ventured into the garden to see the girls and my veggies etc. I found some beautiful produce and a very bald chicken. Poor Gladys molted and there were feathers everywhere! Her poor little body was covered in quills without feathers and she looked like a very angry porcupine. I was so happy to be home! even with the dead rotting possum under my house…yup

garden

whats for dinner

The following week i spent unpacking, readjusting to work and catching up on sleep. This is also harvest season! i came home from a land that is teaming with beautiful foods to a home that is teaming with beautiful foods! I felt soooo lucky to live here.

artichokes

The farmers market on saturday morning was at its peak. I walked around in a delighted daze listening to music, people watching and sampling everything i could get my hands on!

berries fennel mushrooms peppers tomatoes 

After we left the market, we headed to Sauvie Island to pick peaches. I wanted to learn to can and figured peaches would be my first attempt at this mysterious piece of my heritage.

Kruger Farms is always entertaining and this time the Mobile Beer Bus was open…so why doesnt this come into the neighborhoods like the icecream trucks? i could totally see adults chasing it down the street with their empty mugs held high.

beer

The peaches were ripe and juicy and the fields had so much bounty.

zinnias sauvie

At home Jill and I blanched and pealed peaches. We sliced them up and boiled gallons of  water. It was stressful! I imagine it will get easier as i become more confident that i wont poison myself or my loved ones.

peaches

I think they look really pretty. and i added some cardamom pods to give them just s smidge of spice.

can

tomorrow i return to the land of Crete  to describe my incredible “slow” day in the Amari Valley…sigh

Welcome to the Jungle

it didnt seem that long ago that i was looking at my garden and it was small and cold and wet. poor thing. Now i look at it and i havet o push aside small jungles to get from point A to B. my tomatoes are coming, the cukes and zuchs are huge. i have a bumper crop of raspberries and strawberries and still eating blueberries. Things are pretty amazing. Here are a few pics

arti

beets

corn

greens

flowers

zuch2

Bon Appetit!