Saturday, December 20, 2008

Frozen Food Aisles

No need to go to the grocery store this week to stock up on frozen food. I've got it right here in the yard. We've had snowfall and freezing rain all week here in Oregon. It's pretty but not particularly fun - especially when I can't just run out and harvest something to eat!





From Yard


Luckily I got off the couch a few weeks back and gathered leaves from all the neighbors. The city of Springfield does a fall leaf collection drive. All they ask is that you bag your leaves and place them on the curb. This is perfect for someone like me. I just drive around and throw the bags in the truck. My neighbors have me even more spoiled. They just leave their bags in my yard. I also rake leaves out of the street and use the wheel barrow to disperse them in strategic locations.



This has really paid off this week. My plant roots are snug in their leafy beds. I use the pear, cherry, ash, and plum leaves from my neighbors in the actual raised beds. These leaves are small and break down really fast. I throw some grass clippings on top of them to keep them from blowing away. Next spring they will be rotted enough to just turn into the soil.

I've even been a bit surprised at how well some of my plants have fared during this cold snap. Even the arugula is still edible.


Of course, I have to be able to get outside to harvest. I have learned this week that I probably shouldn't be wearing flip flops while I'm out there. However, I figure that if my vegetables can weather this storm, so can my toes!




Monday, December 8, 2008

Seed Seeker

Yes, I spend way too much time looking at seed catalogs. I don't know why I do it, I seem to always end up at the seed rack at Jerry's or Fred Meyer to grab whatever catches my fancy on April 10. But this year I'm determined to plan better. I've got a greenhouse to play with!

The good news for me is that it is pitch black outside, it's pledge week on PBS, and I just finished a terrible book. That's right, I'm a little restless.

One of my favorite seed sources (they have a rack at Jerry's) is Territorial Seeds in Cottage Grove. They have a store there too. They are the nicest people and always very helpful when I stop in on my way to or from Medford. I've had great luck with their seeds. They test everything right here locally so you know it's going to grow here in the Willamette Valley.

Here's what's on the list so far:
  • Tomatoes (The first three are Jenny McFarland's recommendations. The girl knows how to grow tomatoes, I tell you) Glacier, Sun Gold, Taxi, and my favorite, Roma.

  • I'm also going to plant Celeriac. I had some in the yard when I first moved in but I ate it all before it went to seed.

  • Ed is a Radish fiend. I've planted a couple of different types, but he liked the Altaglobe the best. Unfortunately, I don't see it in the catalog. He didn't really like the Cherry Belle, so I think I am going to try the French Breakfast. They aren't round so it will rock Ed's world - but hey, they are better than store-bought.

  • Lemon Cucumbers. I just love these. I eat them like apples and they rarely make it into the house.

  • I'm also going to try Mexican Sour Gherkins in a hanging basket. They sound fun and I like to try new things.

  • I also need some onion sets. This year I'm going to try Copras. I plant these close together and thin them for Ed's salads. Breath mint?

  • Oregon Sugar Pod peas. I challenge you to find a more perfect vegetable. I love these...and so do my coworkers. I like to plant the peas and beans together. The peas finish up right when the bean plants are ready to take off.

Here are the leftover seeds from this year that will receive a command performance:

  • Nickel Bush Beans. I got these last year from Territorial but don't see them in the catalog right now. These are the BEST BEANS. Very tasty. They are a slender bean and are perfect fresh or in stir fry. Snatch these up if you see them anywhere else.

  • Kandy Korn Hybrid. Not a big producer, but the stalks and leaves have maroon streaks and the silk is pink. I planted them in the front yard and they were beautiful. The ears were delicious. They are packed with sugar so you want to eat them as soon as they are picked. They get gummy in your mouth if they are more than a few hours old. I would pick these, flick off the earworm, yank out the silk, then pop them on the grill (husk and all.) And hey, if a few aphids got singed, all the better.

  • Flying Saucer Patty Pan summer squash. Alas, I planted these in a corner and forgot to weed and water them.

  • Italienischer Loose-Leaf lettuce. I meant to plant these last fall but ran out of room because my spring lettuce just kept on producing all through summer. I just couldn't bring myself to pull them up while we were still snacking.

  • Swiss Chard Bright Lights. I already have this growing but we keep eating it to the nubbins. I've got another bed prepared so I can grow more. This is a beautiful plant in the landscape. The colors hold up pretty well during cooking too.

  • Filderkraut cabbage.
    From Yard
    What a cool plant! The slugs ate all but one plant this fall, but I am determined to grow more.

  • Broccoli blend. I planted this last fall and we are eating through it now. A fun variety of different types of broccoli - all very tasty.

  • French Nicoise salad greens. Oh, my, god. Fabulous. I pulled up the wild onions (hey, I live in Springfield, I've got them growing EVERYWHERE.) If you like your food to slap you around, this mix will do it. I pair this with arugula (which I am ordering) for an eye-watering sinus-clearing good time. I also grew their Tangy Mesclun and it was great. I still have joi choi growing in the bed. I harvest a couple of leaves now and then to throw into the stir fry.

Dang, I'm going to need to buy property. Wait, I already did that. Too bad it's in Alaska. Looks like I'm going to have to rip out more flower beds.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Greenhouse and Chicken Coop?




My cousin Bruce bought property in Veneta that had a greenhouse on it. It was 32 feet long and about 8 feet wide and he didn't want it. Ta Da! He begged me for years to come take it away. I have had greenhouses before and know how much work they are. I eventually gave in once I had most of my other yard projects well on their way.

It is manufactured by Addco Greenhouses. It's a great design, really. The frame is 1" square aluminum tubing. The ribs and the shelves all tie in together in a very clever way. The company comes to your house and erects it. They use crimping tools to put it all together. I soon discovered that an Addco Greenhouse is not meant to be disassembled. I had to cut all the joints in order to haul it away. It took me several days to take it apart and sort everything.
I cleared a place in the yard and dug out a trench. Ed helped me haul several pickup loads of gravel to fill the trench.

My idea is to use it as a giant cold frame. I have no intention of heating or cooling it other than to cycle regular air through it. I plan on getting solar powered arms to open the louvers when the temperature gets to high. There is a small fan that is supposed to attach to a convection tube (which I have to replace) that I want to run from a solar panel. In the summer when it is really hot I am going to throw a dark-out cloth over it and use it to dry my herbs.

I also want to use it as a chicken coop. I rescued a set of nest boxes from the ranch in anticipation of having girls around the house. I haven't quite figured it out yet but I am close. I think it has possibilities. Don't you?