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Archive for January, 2012

Kate’s friend Emily came to stay with us last night on her way from Sandpoint, Idaho, where she runs a small farm with her boyfriend, to Ethiopia where she is taking a vacation while the farm is under snow.  She and her farm were recently featured in the Carleton Voice alumni magazine- reading that article made me insanely jealous and when she came in David promptly announced that we had a farm crush on her.  Chatting about the farm with her while preparing dinner was awesome- they have a sweet land lease deal and are actually not in debt as small farmers!!  (Perhaps because of a few ground rules they laid out at the beginning, one of which was don’t quit your day job… but now she’s quitting her day job!)

Now i want to be a farmer even more… sigh…   and i’m gathering that this is not entirely unusual- my classmate Tad wants to be a farmer, Lauren and Tommy want to start a farm, Nolan already works on a farm.  Shit.  What if we all became small farmers?!  That would be amazing.

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Snow!

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Owing to the fact that I love planning my garden way more than doing lab work, I have created a planting calendar for Seattle veggie garden growers.  It’s based off of multiple sources that are Pacific Northwest-specific but not Seattle-specific, including Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, The Four Season Harvest, The New Organic Grower, The Westside Gardener blog, and various planting charts from places like Territorial Seed Company and West Coast Seeds; and the Seattle-specific Maritime Northwest Garden Guide produced by Seattle Tilth- which is fantastic but does not have a handy planting chart.  So, after quite a bit of tinkering, I believe I’m finally finished enough to post this for your benefit (if you happen to live in Seattle).

Now, the planting calendar is just that- a planting calendar.  There is no indication of when your veggies will be ready to eat and the plants ready to replace with your next round of transplants- after three years I still have no idea how that works.  Anyway, there’s a range of dates you can sow most veggies- the harvest date will be roughly the number of days to maturity from your planting date, plus a few weeks that it will take you to harvest and eat everything.  (I don’t know if this has ever been true in my garden- things are just ready when they’re ready.  This might be because our soil was so crappy the first couple of years…)

I’m posting the whole Excel workbook instead of a PDF so that you can add in weird and unusual veggies and herbs that you like to grow, or so you can change the dates a bit (if you don’t live in Seattle, or if you discover i’m totally and embarrassingly wrong about something.)  If you want to play it safe, plant in the middle of the range of dates, not toward the outside edges.  If you have the ability to protect your garden with plastic cloches and such, or are just brave, you can venture toward the very early and very late planting dates.

Ta Daaaa!!!  Seattle planting calendar

If you don’t like it, don’t tell me because I worked real hard on it!  But i will accept suggestions on how to improve it.

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Look what David made for me!!! I mean, for the garden!!! From the used windows we got at the Ballard Re-Store and some lumber, we have fashioned a ginormous mini-greenhouse that fits over the 4-foot-wide raised beds in the garden.  It’s heavy and unwieldy, but it’s made from mostly recycled material that cost us, oh… maybe 50 bucks?  The windows are way cheaper than the wood, heh.

In any case, it’s fantastic and i can’t wait to get some planties in there.  It’s currently squatting over the section of the 2012 brassica bed that will grow kale (pictured below growing in the apocalypse room).  I’m hoping it will warm up and dry out the soil enough in the next week that i can transplant the kale seedlings out there, but we’ll see.  (The kale seedlings that Kate and i transplanted into the front yard a while back got obliterated by slugs- i forget that while fallen leaves shelter the soil, they also provide good slug habitat, and little seedlings can’t out grow them in the cold weather.)  Before transplanting this time, i will rake up what’s left of the leaf covering and give it to the chickens; it’s likely FULL of bugs.

We have plans and materials for another 4ft-wide by 3ft-long by 1.5-2ft-tall mini greenhouse, and three cold frames of various sizes that will be just tall enough for lettuce and other greens.  Between all of them, we should be able to start everything waaaay early this year- but we’ll see how things work out.  The tall mini green house will eventually be used to protect a few early tomato plants, and then we’ll likely shift it over to the cucumber/squash/melon bed.  Eliot Coleman, whose book Four Season Harvest i have, describes a neat system of movable greenhouses that protect cold-hardy plants over the winter, then move to less hardy plants, then tomatoes, then squash as each plant needs protection and the previous one will be ok uncovered.  The most interesting part is that he does this backwards also- the greenhouse goes back over the squash near the end of summer, when the squash are done the greenhouse moves to the tomatoes (which would be great in Seattle, since it’s the sogginess that gets them as much as the cold), and in November or so when the tomatoes are done, the greenhouse moves back to protect the overwintering veggies.  He manages all this in Maine, so i imagine it will work alright in Seattle too.  Although, his theory is that it’s the amount of sunlight that counts (as long as you can protect your plants from the cold), and so while he’s at the same parallel in Maine as Southern France (which is much warmer), both of those places are at lower latitudes and get more sun than we do here.

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Were quite pretty during sunrise. iPhone camera isn’t that great for long distance landscape shots… the view was way better than this, of course.

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Garden eats 1.7.12

I’ve decided that i should start bragging about meals we make mostly with ingredients from the garden. This will hopefully challenge us to use more of our veggies in delicious home-cooked dishes- something we are surprisingly bad at, given all that we manage to produce on our little urban farm.

So, this morning (is it still morning?) David made some excellent scrambled eggs from our chickens, plus thyme and a kale/cabbage cross from the garden. Leeks were from the store, but will soon be from the garden!

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My eyes are always bigger than my garden patch, and year after year i order too many varieties of too many veggies.  Also, the “sampler” packets that companies sell still have way too many seeds in them if i just want to plant one or two tomato plants of a certain variety.

So, I’ve made a list of seeds that i have in the hopes that i can get people with small gardens like myself to buy the extras.  If you see something you like, let me know and i’ll give you half a packet (or so) for a dollar (or so).

There exists some sort of seed swap put on by Seattle Tilth every year…  but i don’t really want more seeds in return, just to recover some of the costs of my addiction.

And yes, i did already order my seeds for 2012.  I can’t be stopped!!!

Here’s the list:  Veggie garden seed

 

Help me out here, folks. I'm running out of appropriately shaped tupperware!

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Poor Oscar’s kidneys are failing, and he must go on a protein-poor diet so that nitrogen does not build up in his blood and cause him to go senile and feel crappy all the time. Because the commercial kidney health food is so expensive (ridiculous, because you’re paying a lot for no protein…) my mom supplements with a homemade mix of white rice, carrots, and broccoli. Oscar eats the broccoli first, then the rice/wet food mush mix, then the carrots, which he eats off of the floor after he’s removed them from his dish to get at the good stuff.

This was all quite hilarious to me- my family seems to raise dogs that love vegetables and fruit- Oscar loves oranges and apples, Indy loves bananas, they both love broccoli, Inka loves peas and beans and zucchini.

Still excited... weirdo dog.

Oscar’s diet abruptly became un-funny when we played frisbee in the park on Christmas day and his legs collapsed under him at every landing or abrupt change in direction- his muscles atrophied by lack of proper protein… and age, I suppose.  Though bad, the diet is not as extreme as it could be- it’s a compromise between weakness and senility and he’s losing brain function bit by bit as well.   Apparently he will stare blankly at trees in the backyard or wake up from naps scared, not knowing where he is.

This makes sense, but it was still shocking, considering Oscar’s past as a legendary frisbee star. At his prime he could leap to shoulder height to catch the disc, even though he weighs 50 pounds. On the beach my dad and I once measured the distance between his footprints at take off and landing- he had covered a good 25 feet. He could read a disc better than anyone I’ve ever met, except maybe Chris Rupp.  I was always hoping that playing fetch with Oscar would improve my game, but he never revealed the secrets of his mad skillz.  He also loves frisbee so much that, unlike other dogs that mark their territory every 10 feet, he will not pee until we are done playing and are leaving the park- he doesn’t want to miss any tosses, no matter how short or crappy.  When we’ve convinced him we’re leaving, he will, frisbee still in mouth, finally take a humongous piss and get back in the car.

An easy grab

Locked on and ready to launch

Look at that extension!!

Oscar only ever accompanied us on one backpacking trip, though he would definitely still enjoy an easy hike.  David and I took him and Emma (David’s golden lab) to the Sawtooth range in Idaho one summer.  He disappeared after about 45 minutes of hiking, running after some critter into the woods.  We searched for him for hours, until night fell and we decided to camp and keep looking in the morning.  I woke up sobbing, thinking about how i would have to tell my family that i lost our dog.  We hiked back to the car to get sunglasses (it was very snowy) and then were going head back out to see if he had joined another group of hikers- Oscar loves and belongs to anyone who will love him back and was probably just as content with them as he would be with us.  As David crossed the stream just before the trail head, Oscar scrambled out from under the Subaru where it seemed he had spent the night.  We were mutually overjoyed to see each other, though David kept threatening to strangle him for running off.  He still had his little doggie pack on, and right away i unzipped it to pull out the dinner and breakfast portions he had missed.  He was astonished.  “Wait- i’ve been carrying my own food this whole time?!  Well shit.”  He stayed with us for the rest of the trip.

It's funny because his ears are normally floppy, but are being blown up by the wind. No one really finds this as hilarious as I do.

Here David explains our backpacking route to Oscar, who looks quite surprised by its boldness. (Its funny, because Oscar's ears are normally floppy but are being blown up by the wind here. No one finds this quite as hilarious as I do.)

Another time, while accompanying me on my paper route in high school, he disappeared and when it came time to drive back home he reappeared carrying a big stinky stick in his mouth.  He wouldn’t put it down to get in the car, so i drove slowly and he ran alongside the car with the thing clenched in his teeth.  As he came up the driveway, i realized it was an arm, severed at the shoulder and wrist, with muscles but no skin.  My outburst of disgust caused him to drop it and i ran inside and woke up my dad.  He convinced me it was from a deer or a pig or something…

Despite the occasional disobedience employed to eat disgusting things, Oscar is a fantastic dog and has caused me to fall in love with Austrailian shepherds as a breed.  Indoors, they only wanted to be petted and sit next to you, lean on you, snuggle up – earning a few aussies i know the nickname “Velcro dog”.  Outside, they only want to work for you- catching frisbees, running agility, herding ducks (what?).  They’re amazing.

Sigh… poor Oscar.

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Joakim (AKA The Man Swede) came with us to Idaho for the holidays. We spent a lot of time walking around near the Snake River Canyon, which is the shit. The Swede was surprised to learn that tumbleweeds actually exist in real life- not just in Western movies.

Plenty of people find southern Idaho/Nevada/Eastern Washington and Oregon boring and unattractive- the hills are brown more often than not, and there are few mountains with awesome snow and pine covered jagged rock faces. But the high desert is awesome. Sagebrush is beautiful and smells amazing- especially after it rains. There are fantastic lightning storms. There are sweet-ass lizards and coyotes. (I may or may not have once spent a first date catching lizards amongst the sagebrush.) The canyons are especially great- hexagonal basalt columns and other almost unbelievable rock formations, reds and browns and blacks in the setting sun. Good stuff. The only bad thing i can think of is that in the late summer you get cheat grass stuck in your shoes and socks when you’re out walking around in the brush. Oh, and the mormon crickets- those things are hideous. Once i biked up Rocky Canyon Road in the summer, running over several every couple feet- they’re so fat they can’t control where they jump- and when i came back down the hill, hoards of them had come out onto the road to eat their dead.

Anyway- here is an example of the beauty of the Great Basin Desert as we are driving through Nevada from Boise to Palo Alto. Then a picture of San Francisco, which marks the beginning of the last stretch, after miles and miles of goddamn desert and then miles and miles of goddamn concrete and strip malls and civilization.

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