The summer garden planting time is upon us, and a right good trick it is. In between the downpours, it's time to rush out and plant tomatoes, peppers, basil, summer and winter squashes, sweet corn, beans and cucumbers. Those brave and blessed with a good microclimate may try some northern adapted melons. Russian Collective Farm Woman melon is my choice this year. Last year, I planted a French heirloom cantaloupe thingy and got a half dozen drippingly sweet softball sized melons. The full force… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on June 10, 2010 at 12:30pm —
Just as a filthy cold spring is delaying planting the summer garden, it's time to get ready to plant your winter garden. The winter garden feeds you, your family, and possibly your laid off friends through next fall, winter and spring with fresh delicious veg. That eight months of food you grow yourself provides fresh food when it is most expensive and most likely to be imported from California, Mexico, China and Chile. Personally, I wish Chile all the best in a changing world, but tying a… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on May 28, 2010 at 6:33pm —
A few years ago, just as the local food movement was popping on to the radar, Joel Salatin, farmer and writer, wrote a passionate book titled, "Everything I Want to Do is Illegal". Salatin's point is that a half century of consolidation, increasingly large food processors and "eliminating the middleman" has eliminated the middleman. Nearly the entire local food processing and distribution system has gone out of business or been buried in regulations. In some cases, the regulations are aimed at… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on May 22, 2010 at 10:57am —
As you buzz about happily planning your garden, give thought where your seeds and starts come from. If you are going to the effort of growing your own, grow the good stuff. No point in working that hard for the same tasteless cardboard tomatoes you can buy in the supermarket. When you buy seeds and starts, look for heirloom varieties. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated seeds that have been passed on for years, sometimes decades or centuries. Heirloom and open pollinated seeds can be saved… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on May 7, 2010 at 9:00am —
Jam season is coming sooner than we think. We seem to be having an early spring - when it isn't winter again. In the usual scheme of things, strawberries arrive in June, followed by the early raspberries, cherries, blueberries, plums, apricots, peaches, figs, blackberries, fall raspberries and the rare treasures, local Lynden Blue and Madeline Angevine grapes. Apples ripen from June to October, depending on the variety. Where to start?
The first step is to plan. How many people are you… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on April 28, 2010 at 11:30pm —
It's all about the cheese. French cheese is a story of cookery and resource depletion. Cheese preserves milk, an otherwise fragile commodity. Cows, goats and sheep can make milk from pasture land that may be too steep, rocky or poor for grains or row crops. Cheese can be compactly transported. A gallon of milk makes 8-16 ounces of cheese, so the volume goes down and the shelf life goes up. Cheese has terroir, the flavors of origin. What the animals eat, the breed, the time of year and the… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on April 23, 2010 at 11:00am —
It's time to plant onion sets and potatoes. If you haven't started some peas, lettuce and spinach already, now is the time. Leave some space for the summer garden, even if your summer garden is two patio tomatoes and a butterstick summer squash in pots. Bush beans, compact summer squashes, determinate tomatoes in cages, trellises to train pole beans, squash, cucumbers will help you grow a lot in small spaces.
Back when I had just built the first raised bed on my former front lawn, a… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on April 19, 2010 at 12:30pm —
Dr. Steve Jones, when he was here talking to us about small scale grain growing, suggested looking around for old threshers, balers, tractors and other medium tech equipment. He also suggested that if we find something, try to buy more than one, because the parts are hard to find. The equipment is itself hard to find. The high price of scrap steel has led to collecting up the old machines from the early 20th Century and shipping them to China to be melted down. Once you beat the scrap dealer to… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on April 12, 2010 at 10:30am —
Look for fresh ginger, tumeric and galangal roots in the markets now. They are in season someplace in world, and we get to share. The fresh juicy roots are the ones you want. Ginger is a familiar element of Asian cooking. Galangal is a hard root that ripens to rock-hard. It is the secret ingredient in Pad Thai. It was widely grown and used in Europe until it was lost during the calamitous 14th century. Tumeric, used in Indian and Asian cooking, is usually found as a dry powder. The fresh root… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on April 3, 2010 at 12:00pm —
Herbs from the garden are seasonal. The season for leaves is just beginning. The thyme and sage are already leafing out. The savory will be strong enough to start taking clippings next week. The chives are already starting to form flower buds. Just cut those off and chop them up and drop them into an omelet.
This is the time to delight in the return of fresh herbs to the kitchen. Soon, we can start harvesting handfuls and drying them. The thyme, savory, oregano family are harvested and… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on March 30, 2010 at 7:00pm —
In the back of "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest", Mollie Katzen helpfully included fake sheets for major world cuisines. Let's deconstruct one of them, home style French cooking, and see what we can grow in the garden. Classical French cooking has had a resurgence of interest with the popularity of the movie "Julie and Julia". Thankfully, home cooking in France has always been simpler than the elaborate dishes that Julia Child learned at the Cordon Bleu in Paris after World War II. When your… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on March 29, 2010 at 1:30pm —
In 1986, I had a field of golden wheat in my backyard. The field was 20' and 20' and my backyard was in suburban Clarksville, Tennessee. The former mistress of the modest ranch house had a big garden in the back yard. The first summer, I rented a rototiller and tilled up the lot. Then, contemplating the expanse of bare black earth, it dawned on me that she was a stay at home mother with two school aged kids. I had demanding work, a long commute and a baby. So, instead of recreating the big row… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on March 27, 2010 at 12:30pm —
It's time to plant spring oats in beds you won't be using until late summer. Oats have multiple uses. Spring planted oats get going strongly by mid-summer and are turned over in the green and fluffy stage to break down and nourish the winter garden that you will be planting in July and August. You are planning a winter garden, right? You want that good stuff to feed your family all fall, winter and next spring. When you see organic kale at $3 a bunch in December and lettuce at $2 a head, you… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on March 25, 2010 at 9:00am —
A small garden adds significantly to the gardener's quality of life. Many small gardens and farms together produce a significant fraction of an area's vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits are mostly water, so the less trucking about of water that we do, the better.
Calorie crops are whole different problem. Calorie crops, the energy dense grains and legumes that provide a big chunk of our diet, are hard to find locally.
It was not always so. In the 19th and early 20th… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on March 22, 2010 at 12:30pm —
It's horse poop season. Now is the time to check around for used horse bedding, borrow or rent a truck and go shovel some up. Horse bedding and its embedded poop is far easier to come by than cow manure, for social reasons rather than sheer volume. We have some 83,000 dairy cows in Whatcom County. Their manure is either a resource or a problem, depending on how you look at it. (Gene Lodgon's comment about dealing with the manure from large dairy operations was that it consisted of making a… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on March 21, 2010 at 11:30am —
Wheat breeder Dr. Steve Jones, the director of the WSU Mt. Vernon research station, gave a talk recently on small scale grain growing, harvesting and threshing at Inspiration Farm. It was standing room only, and the packed house included a broad spectrum of farmers, the young and pierced, the middle-aged hippies, the boys from long time family farms in Lynden. Steve's message was that there is a resurgence in small grain growing in communities all over the country. We have lost the… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on March 19, 2010 at 12:30pm —
In all gardening, start with your life. What do you like to eat? How much time can you devote to gardening, really? I always suggest that people start small, something between 32 and 150 square feet. In really tight spaces, you may have even less garden. Not to worry, the most challenging gardening is the first 10%.
The philosophy of square foot gardening is to maximize the value of small spaces. Square foot gardening is a very old idea. F.H. King wrote about small space intensive… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on March 8, 2010 at 2:00pm —
Small gardens make a big difference in the gardener's quality of life. In our mild winter climate, a small garden can provide nutrient rich fresh greens all fall and winter and the following spring. But there are good reasons for getting to know your farmer as well.
Don't have a farmer? Check out last year's farm map and talk to some. It's not too early to make arrangements to buy some of the things that you won't be growing yourself, at least not in sufficient quantity. Many farmers… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on February 27, 2010 at 5:30pm —
It's the end of February, and the chicory is volunteering. Chicory is a hardy cold season green with a pleasantly burly taste. Raddiccio, best known as yuppie chow, is green in fall when it first comes up. Cut the fall head and eat it in a salad, and the regrowth in cool weather is red, as are spring heads coming up now.
It is the season for inadvertent vegetables. Broccoli is the flowering head of a member of the cabbage family. In the warm false spring that often comes upon us, we… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on February 27, 2010 at 4:00pm —
The large and varied onion family is a mainstay of winter eating. Leeks are wonderful, a mainstay of the winter garden. There are spring leeks, planted now and eaten in summer, and there are fall leeks. Fall leeks should get a good start in the warmth of late summer. They can be eaten in fall, or they can just sit there dormant all winter and be there for you in early spring when the stored onions have been eaten or gone mushy. Harvest by cutting off the green leaves and the leeks will keep… Continue
Added by Celt M. Schira on February 11, 2010 at 11:00am —