Category Archives: summer

soaking up the last drops of sunshine

We were ready to embrace fall after a few days of grey and rain, but apparently we’re getting some more summer.

A list:

one of us has a whole lot of homework
one of us is trying to become a morning person again (not going well, yet)
one of us had a mishap with the immersion blender
luckily, everyone still has 10 fingers
even if it is sunny, soup season has officially begun
we’re still anxiously awaiting our first egg
no loud noises have been reported from our rooster, yet
homemade hot sauce is fermenting on the counter
the kitchen is still full of tomatoes
so many plans, so little time

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Seattle community garden with a side of Americana

While we were wandering around Seattle in search of a little roadside Americana, we found two of our favorite things together in one place – a community garden with a backdrop of a roadside relic that has been refurbished.

We went to Oxbow Park to see the old Hat ‘n’ Boots that used to be part of a Western-themed gas station built in the 1950s. I was struck by the beauty of plants growing with the towering hat and boots nearby.

I would love to have something like this around here, but I don’t envy the wait-lists and smaller plot sizes Seattle community gardeners must face.


tomatoes, hat, boots

I also saw my very first artichoke flower.

Kind of a shame not to eat something so delicious, but at least this honey bee got a crack at it.

We soaked up the sun.

I turned 35 this weekend, and can’t recall ever having a birthday so hot. Over 90 degrees in the northwest in September. We’re enjoying it while we can! For more photos from our visit to Oxbow Park, click here.

– Krista

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The Hen that Wasn’t

We knew that being a chicken-tender had its share of heartbreak opportunities, even if you read every book, consult all the right experts and do everything “right.” Chickens get sick. Predators get wily. Life ain’t easy for chickens, even the coddled pets of vegetarians. That is to say, we have discovered our first chicken heartbreaker.

Oh, Cry-Baby Walker. We paid an extra $1 for her to be sexed at the hatchery. We were given a 90% hen guarantee for our tiny birds, although we always knew that chicken sexing is more art than science. We gave Cry-Baby a gender-bending name, knocking on wood and hoping that she would grow into it more gracefully than a boy named Sue.

You see where this is headed, don’t you? Little Cry-Baby has been displaying some unnerving signs of imminent roosterness: early comb development, thick legs, relatively large body size and “shiny” feathers. Krista, Levi & I have spent months comforting each other about these characteristics. We said things like: Buff Orpington chickens are a large breed. She’s big-boned. Lots of BO hens have very prominent roostery-looking combs. The gender-ambiguity of the Buff Orpington breed helped to perpetuate this grand delusion. We’ve been in denial because, of course, we love her. Er, him. We love him. Levi called us out this weekend. “Come and look at this chicken,” he demanded. Pointing at the adorable fluffy chicken butt, he said, “Those are saddle feathers. Those tail feathers are curling.”

One could make a good case to either keep or eliminate a rooster, and we have gone back and forth about this in our family. One of us sleeps flip-flop schedules for work, and no one likes to be woken up by a rooster if they went to bed at 5am. He hasn’t started to crow yet, but it could start any day. We’re squeamish about fertilized eggs in the omelets. He likes to cuddle now, but our charming cockerel might attack his beloved humans to defend his hens. Ultimately, I think the adults in the household agree that there is not room in our hen house for a rooster.


Having decided that we won’t keep him, our options are slim. We’re hoping to find a home for him in a flock with more open-minded owners. Do you know anyone who would like a very sweet pet rooster? Speak up.

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Adventures in Vertical Potatoes

In 2009, we grew poatoes in stacked tires on a lark. That was fun. The potatoes were delicious and we were converted to enthusiastic potato growers. Occasionally, I come across something about how important potatoes are for self-reliance gardening and I think that we really need to grow more of them.

In 2010, Krista built wooden stacking potato boxes. I wrote about why we switched from tires to wooden stacks here. We also grew potatoes in burlap bags from local coffee roasters, although apparently I have never blogged about that. I found burlap bags to be an unsatisfactory way to grow potatoes. The burlap bags were free though, and I composted them afterwards. No harm, no foul.

I buy our seed potatoes at a local nursery. I wrote about the varieties we planned to grow here if you are interested. We planted them in our faithful wooden stacks again this year, but we have been more attentive about mounding the plants regularly. Hopefully our diligence will be rewarded with a better yield. We haven’t harvested yet, but the plants are much taller and heartier than we have ever grown before.

The neighborhood deer have been voracious this summer, causing serious damage to the potatoes a few weeks ago. We covered the stacks with deer netting and as you can see, the plants grew back with a vengeance. The wooden stacks work well with deer netting because you can tuck it all around the edges.

This is a sort of experimental method, so we’ll report back when the plants die back. We planted late this year so we have weeks to go before harvest. And then? Potato salad, potato tacos, potato soup, roasted potatoes and colcannon for us, and maybe some of our hard-earned tips for growing vertical potatoes for you.

xoxo,
Jess

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Thurston County Fair

We went to the County Fair last week and like The Boss says, everybody in town was there. Krista was working at the 9-1-1 booth and teaching little kids how to make emergency phone calls, so Levi & I wandered around. We saw quilts, jams, a baking contest, lots of animals and fried food. It was an afternoon full of summery, midway cheer and agricultural boasting. The experience exacerbated my longing for a tiny pygmy dairy goat.

We spent a good deal of time in the poultry barn. As new chicken owners, this seemed important. We admired a lot of plumage and rare birds, discussing breeds we might want to raise someday. We saw a poultry costume contest, which was the highlight of my week. We had several discussions about whether this would be chickens dressed in costumes, or people dressed as poultry. We were pleased to see chickens in outfits.

You have to respect the chickens who will lay eggs under some adverse conditions, like a little wire cage at the county fair with hundreds of people staring at them all day. Three leghorns in one pen makes it hard to tell who laid the egg.

We met a pig named Bacon. That was a little sad.

We explored the nuances of sarcasm in the food court. Why does the Republican party have a hot dog stand? The opportunity for jokes are endless here.

In the quilt room, I found this cathedral quilt. It is a pretty awesome quilt. Learning to make quilts… put that on my list of projects.

We stopped by the beekeepers booth, of course, and spotted the queen in the observation hive. Levi is good at spotting queen bees.

Krista & I shared a very special moment while waiting for our veggie burger. We watched a little troop of young gentlemen dancing to a Justin Bieber song. It was the kind of moment that makes me glad to be human, right here, right now.

The sun went down. We packed up our sunburns, sticky hands and dusty shoes and went home. See you next year, county fair!

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Inside the coop

I am so happy to report that the ladies are greatly enjoying their full-time outside lives. They still seem to love us a lot even though they are big girls with their own lives. Bribery, treats, and special attention will get you everywhere with chickens. I like to peek into the egg door and see what they are doing. Usually they are being cute or funny, or both.

The inside of the coop is pretty nice. The roof is clear as to not interrupt their stargazing.

They’re good at putting themselves to bed when the sun goes down. They are learning to use their perch. They love the bugs and dirt. I enjoy not having chickens in my house. If we ever raise baby chicks again, I would prefer to do it in the garage. Or at your house. We’re friends, right? You’d let me keep a flock of chickens in your house, wouldn’t you? Now, that’s settled.

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Summer Progresses: Strawberries

I’ve planted at least 75 strawberry plants in our yard since we bought the house. The squirrels dig them up, so we don’t have 75 left, but the survivors are doing pretty well. We grow a mix of Shuksan, Firecracker & Quinault strawberries…. and the occasional alpine strawberry. Most of the berries are in a former flower bed near our back patio, so I check on them often. I greatly enjoy watching them through the seasons.

Our second-year harvest amazes me. Krista has made some amazing strawberry salads this week with organic mixed greens, balsamic vinegar, walnuts and crumbly cheeses. Last night we topped vanilla ice cream with strawberry slices and I sat with my nose over the bowl, inhaling the smell of summer. I’ve managed to keep the birds away this year with a combination of netting & a cat who naps in the strawberries. The slugs are eating too many berries, but the chickens don’t mind eating the ugly slug-nibbled strawberries. Then the chickens look like little feathered gladiators with blood (strawberry pulp) all over their faces. Adorable.

Strawberry crown (bare root) before planting.

The crowns grew into little strawberry plants. I nipped the flowers the first year.

The second-year plants made little flowers. Several species of bees visited the flowers. (not pictured)

Flowers grow into green berries.

Green berries turn red.

Red berries get picked & eaten — every day! Or they go south. This is the danger of growing delicate strawberry varieties.

It is fun to see our garden knit itself together and change over time. We have such an infinite “to do” list of projects for our little garden, it is important to take time to admire what we’ve accomplished in under two years. These strawberries are a metaphor, a delicious, delicious metaphor. I try not to think about how I want to dig up all these strawberries and move them! And someday I will grow enough berries to make strawberry jam from my backyard. I’m not sure that it’s possible on 1/5th of an acre, but I will try!

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