Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fall Is Here-It's DIY Time to Get Ready For Winter

Have you heard about Habitat ReStore?
" Habitat for Humanity ReStores are open to the public and sell a variety of good quality building materials, appliances, furniture and other home improvement products at a fraction of retail prices.
All our merchandise is donated by businesses and individuals and we get new things daily. Follow us on twitter for the latest great deals.
The ReStore Mission
Our ReStores raise funds to help Habitat for Humanity build affordable homes in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan areas. And, we keep usable materials out of the waste stream and into home building, remodeling, and creative arts projects.
In just the past two years we have raised over $275,000 for our affiliates and kept over 1,800 tons of materials out of the landfill.
Get Involved
Donate: Individuals and businesses can donate new and gently used materials to our stores. We accept donations both large and small.
Shop: We have two locations, one in Portland, OR and one in Vancouver, WA. Come visit us. New goods daily. Treasures are waiting.
Volunteer: The Portland and Vancouver ReStores need the help of volunteers like you. We have plenty of opportunities for both individuals and groups. Find out more on our Volunteer page."

Our local Habitat Restore is doing a series of free workshops on weatherization and home improvement. Since the cooler weather is here we may as well be doing something interesting inside.

Clark County Habitat ReStore
5000 E 4th Plain Blvd
Vancouver, WA
Saturdays at 1 pm.
October 2, 2010: Session 1 will focus on exterior weatherization. Topics will include window and door installation, exterior trim install, correct caulking, sealing and house-wrap installation.
1pm - 3pm

October 16, 2010: Session 2 will focus on sheetrock installation and correct taping and mudding procedures. 1pm - 3pm

October 30, 2010: Session 3 topics will include interior painting processes and baseboard and trim installation. 1pm - 3pm

All sessions will be taught by awesome trade professionals! Our lead instructor will be John Schwager, a local contractor and Restore customer. John is a great guy and we’re sure you will learn lots from him.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rain and Fall

I haven't posted in a while because the  summer has been intensely busy. We, TwoRivers Music, have played all over Oregon and Washington this summer and have shows booked "away" through October.

The weather has kept things interesting in the garden. We have discovered that our front garden in really a wind tunnel-part of the "gorge effect" I'm sure. High on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River the wind comes zooming from the East, up the street, across the front garden and through the back gate. Our tomatoes suffered from this and it actually took out our trellis of Scarlet Runner Beans. Ah, live and learn. The front garden in a different micro climate from the back. The back gets sun all day and is much more sheltered from the wind. Next year tomatoes will go in the back. Basil growing in the back is also much happier than in the front so...Basil in the back next year!!
We've canned applesauce and peach butter, frozen lots of cubes of basil for winter use. There will be more of that as the basil in the back is still producing!!

Next project: we started a no/low cards/ no wheat way of eating. I won't call it a diet because it's a change of lifestyle. I've lost 11 pounds and quite a few inches (yay!) and my partner has lost 20 pounds (!!!). We both feel much  better. When it came time to add carbs to what we eat we considered how best to do it. Didn't want to eat processed foods to the extent that we did and the wheat free breads are very expensive in the local stores and the variety is very limited. After research and consideration we sent for a packet of dry sourdough starter from San Francisco and bought spelt flour. By feeding the spelt flour to the starter we now have a 99% spelt starter. Have a lovely ceramic pot with sealing lid from Value Village for the starter. Had one misadventure with the bread. We bought a used clay baking pot and it cracked and fell apart with the first bread baking.  Very disappointing. Next trip to Value Village we got a Corningware pot and lid. It works really well. The bread is dark, rich, moist and very sour! Makes great toast and is good with Eric's home made egg salad!! Last night after work (full day teaching piano and voice lessons, accompanying a church choir at rehearsal) we made our first trial at sourdough, spelt chocolate chips cookies. End result, very tasty, 8 dozen cookies mostly in the freezer. Thank you Eric for doing all the work and clean up!! You have the master's touch!
For those who might be interested all these experiments will result in a cookbook.
Canning tomatoes today thanks to a friend whose garden is not in the wind tunnel!! Playing music at a retirement home. No watering the garden today as the fall rain is taking care of it. We have green beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, broccoli, basil, carrots, chard, onions and more still growing. Starting the fall clean up and planting. Got a mini green house to set up and much organizing to do.
Happy Fall!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Sweet Potato Experiment and more

As an experiment we're trying to grow a sweet potato. Bought a Red Garnet at our grocers. Cut it in half, laid it in a pie plate with some "muck", in a couple of weeks lovely sprouts appeared. Time passed and we carefully broke the sprouts from the sweet potato and planted them in our back raised bed. It appears to be flourishing. Later this fall we will know if it worked.

Growing sweet potatoes for profit (Circular)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What's in bloom? First Basil harvest - 10 feet from the door.

July is going by like a rocket. The weather is the usual-changeable. Monday a chilly feeling 62 degrees F today might be 86 F.

The garden is responding to the sun and rain.

Here are photos of what we have in bloom. From right to left: Calendula, Cherry Tomato, Chives, Clary Sage, Coriander, Cucumber, Mystery Plant, Nasturtiums

Tuesday evening we stayed home to watch baseball-the All Star Game-and harvested our first bunch of Italian Large Leaf Basil. We made fresh pesto, hung some to dry and today will process some for the freezer.

The harvest was much more abundant than anticipated! One of the best things I can imagine is having wonderful, fresh, natural food less than 10 feet from your door.

The books in the last photo are the "gardening bibles" from Rodale Press. Much loved and used for years.

We have around 70 square feet under cultivation. Today we're adding another raised bed - 6 'x 3' I think - behind the house for more basil, sweet potatoes, onions and whatever sounds good. Going to start carrots in a couple of big nursery pots. We have very rocky soil (ancient riverbed) so pots and raised beds work the best. We have a seed packet of a lovely multicoloured  variety of carrots. Planted a fun sounding pumpkin which is supposed to be orange, white or striped! Can't wait to see that!

Gardening is an adventure, a process, relaxing and not incredibly hard work if you go for raised beds, containers and intensive planting. Taking control of at least part of your food supply is something that can be done in a window box, on the porch or patio, yard, or however much land you can use. If this isn't possible find out about community gardens in your area and take a little bit of freedom into your hands with every growing plant. You can have good food less than 10 feet from your door.

Rodale`s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer at Last!

Summer arrived the day after Solstice!
This year we planted five kinds of tomatoes (total of eleven plants), Gold Nugget Cherry, Red Pear Cherry, Cherokee Purple, Roma, and Red & Yellow Bi Color. The Gold Nugget, Cherokee Purple & Roma were started from organic seeds. Only one Cherokee has made it. The others are flourishing and the Gold Nugget and Bi Color are beginning to bloom.  


Gold Nugget Cherry Tomato on left  Red and Yellow Bi Color Tomato  on right.

Wild garlic and chives are blooming.

Nasturtiums and Pansies are rioting.

We have a few raspberries and tiny blueberries are looking pretty good. Scarlet Runner and Blue Lake beans  are curling around everything. Lettuce, mostly Red Sails, is great! Haven't bought any lettuce since mid March. That has almost paid for the garden by itself! Peppers look happy and healthy. Sweet potato starts are
still in the laundry room but looking good. Red and Blue potatoes are growing well in the pots.

Enjoy the warm weather and sunshine. Have a great week and a happy 4th of July.

Growing sweet potato for tubers and leaves (Njala University College circular) 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Small Acreage Tour and Info

Yesterday we took a road trip. 21 miles from our backdoor (thank you Google maps - there are shorter ways to get there!) to the Conway Family Farm near Camas, WA. On 5 acres the Conways have a herd of Nubian goats, 15 of which they milk every day. In the pristine working dairy they produce milk, cheese. The milk is also made into a wonderful goats milk soap. Some of the non-milking goats are harvested for meat which is processed at a local USDA certified butcher. The family is careful in their selection of a butcher following their beliefs and practice of dignity through out the life of their animals. I have to say that these are the happiest, most friendly, healthy goats I have ever seen.
There is a flock of around 27 laying hens. Five roosters (a by product of a class one of the daughters took) provide a background track for the visit. 

A small flock of Border Leicester sheep provides wool for yarn. 

Blueberries and lavender provide a seasonal cash crop.

Products created at The Conway Family Farm and for salae include

Direct marketed, USDA processed chevon
• Licensed Grade A raw goat milk dairy (fluid
milk, cheese, goat soaps, creams)
• Honey and beeswax candles
• Wool production with value-added yarn sales
• Blueberry production with U-pick blueberries,
jams and jellies
• Lavender production with cultivar sales, bath
and body products (lotions, perfume, soaps)
• Raised-bed vegetable garden produce
• Composted manure
• Fresh cut flower arrangements
• Eggs
• Agritourism events

All these products are available through the farm store comfortably located by the front driveway.
To learn more about the Conway Family Farm please go to and

We found this wonderful and informative tour through our Clark Co. Extension Office.

Gardening shows come and go. One of the newest is "Growing a Greener World" hosted by Joe Lamp’l, a.k.a. joe gardener of the "$25 garden Challenge" and “Garden Girl” Patti Moreno, and celebrity chef Nathan Lyon (host of Discovery Health and Fit TV’s hit series, A Lyon in the Kitchen is interesting and informative. You can find them at where full episodes, podcasts and more are readily available.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Your County Extension Office

A great source of information and farm/garden related events in your area is your County Extension Office. Here in Vancouver, WA you can find them at

Today we off for a "Small Acreage Tour" with about 40 other folks. This is just one of the free services you can access through your County Extension Office.

More later!! Enjoy the sunshine, the US against England in the World Cup and The Grand Floral Parade in downtown Portland! What a day!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Let Us Eat Lettuce

With the arrival of warmer weather we need to keep a close watch on our gardens.
Many kinds of lettuce will blot quickly in warm/hot weather. You can construct a sunshade from old window screens to extend the life of your spring lettuce and you can plant more heat tolerant varieties. The list below is from Suite 101.
Many garden stores and the garden section of the big box stores still have lettuce seeds and seedlings. For the cost of one little flat of seedlings (around $3 - $4) you can get a packet of seeds. We like to get a variety and make our own blend. This year, Red Sails, Butter Crunch, Black Seeded Simpson and Oak Leaf.

Heirloom lettuces which can take a bit more heat than their near cousins are listed below.
  1. Buttercrunch is a bibb-type lettuce with a tight center rosette and dark green leaves.
  2. Brown Mignonette is a butterhead lettuce which produces small, flavorful, compact heads early in the season. Edges of leaves have a dark green to red-brown coloring. This is a good variety for those with small gardens.
  3. Merveille de Quatre Saisons is a bibb-type lettuce with a compact green heart and reddish-purple tipped leaves.
  4. New York Head is an iceberg-type heading lettuce which grows very large possibly reaching four pounds. It is very sweet and tolerates heat and cold equally well.
  5. Oak Leaf lettuce is a loose-leaf variety with both green and red leaves. Growing this variety will add color plenty of to spring and summer salads. This is a dependable ‘cut-and-come-again’ plant.
  6. Red Romaine lettuce or cos is a leafy lettuce with a crisp texture which grows on stalks rather than close to the ground like other leaf lettuce. Like its name suggests, red romaine has red leaves.
  7. Rouge De Grenoblouse is an extremely bolt-resistant crisphead lettuce. It has a very sweet flavor even when grown in hot climates.
  8. Rouge De Hiver or Rouge d’Hiver is a romaine lettuce with sweet, buttery flavor. It has very large leaves and is dependable in the heat.
  9. Simpson Black Seeded lettuce is a loose-leaf variety with light green curly leaves. This is the old time favorite most gardeners have heard of. It matures early and is also a good ‘cut-and-come-again’ lettuce.
  10. White Boston is a butterhead lettuce which produces light green heads with a creamy-yellow heart. Heads are firm, round and approximately twelve inches. It is extremely heat-tolerant and recommended for Florida gardens.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rain, Rain, This and That

It feels like it has been raining forever! I guess when our average amount of rain is somewhere between 40 - 50 inches a year there will be times like these.
The forecast though is looking good.

61° | 49°
67° | 50°
83° | 54°
79° | 52°
70° | 49°

How often have you tried to figure out what and when to plant, searching for zone maps and realizing there is more than one source of information? Here is another option from Sunset Magazine showing climate zones.

One of the interesting things in the Historic Hudson's Bay neighborhood is the first community garden in Vancouver, WA. I'm trying to find more info such as when it was started but here are a couple of pictures.

The raised beds are looking great!

This garden is just one of the interesting things Max (our dog) and I have found on our daily walks.

Speaking of our Max (12 yr old, black cocker spaniel); he had surgery Tuesday to remove a tumor and an abcessed tooth. Eric found a wonderful vet in Hazeldel. If you are looking for someone to help you keep your pets healthy we will be happy to make a recommendation.

Tomorrow my oldest son graduates from PCC!!! We'll be among the masses at The Memorial Coliseum in Portland, OR to cheer him on and show how proud we are. Next step, the engineering school at PSU. All accomplished while working full time, rebuilding cars and his house, gardening and trying to have a life. Good job son!

Saturday I get to get my farming geek on! Heading out on a small acreage tour with 30+ other people sponsored  and arranged by the Small Acreage Program Coordinator WSU Clark County Extension. These are the great folks who do the Master Gardener, Master Composter/Recycler, Master Food Preserver programs. To learn more about the Washington  state and Clark county extension services go to 

Happy to report that our cd "TwoRivers Music Vol. 1" will be released June 25, 2010. Other things are in the works, some of which have caused us to switch to BMI from ACSAP. Tons of red tape involved in all this new stuff, bit of grind but worth it in the end. Thanks to our friends Tim Davis and Lyman Louis who have helped with this process.

Our garden continues to do well and feed us several times a week. We haven't bought salad greens for over a month-this is important because we tend to eat huge dinner salads 4 or more time a week. We harvested our first Walla Walla Sweet Onion Monday and added it to a marvelous grilled chicken salad. Recipe: fresh greens (red sails lettuce and baby spinach) chopped Walla Walla Sweet Onion, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, raisins, cubbed Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese, grilled chicken (George Foreman grill that we got a Value Village-best buy of small appliance ever!) and our choice of dressing-raspberry vinaigrette for me! There are many variations to this salad so it doesn't get old.
Green beans are beginning to wind around the trellis and the Scarlett Runner Beans are up! Two out of 3 pots of potatoes are growing well with marigolds and nasturtiums coming up around the outer edges of the pots. Cucumbers and tomatoes looking good but some of the peppers look sad. Not warm enough I thing. Basil doing ok and onions doing well.

Got my very own copy of the Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs! Fantastic book at a very reasonable price. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs 

Looking forward to tomorrow and sunshine! I want a solar oven!!! Yes, we have enough sunlight to do solar in SW Washington!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

How Our Garden Grows

It's been a month since we had to buy salad greens. What a pleasure to walk out the front door and, in less than 10 ft, pick most the ingredients for a tasty, healthy meal.
10 feet. A great change when you know that most food in a supermarket travels thousands of miles, burning immense amounts of fossil fuel to get to our tables. By growing at least some of our own food we save fuel, have fresher, healthier food and enjoy the pleasures of our gardens.
Did you know that one tomato plant can produce 6-8 pounds of tomatoes? That you can grow a potato plant from one that you get at an organic market? Others might not work as some of them are SPRAYED to prevent sprouting.
We have 11 tomatoes of 5 varieties, 2 kinds of cucumbers, 2 kinds of green beans, 4 kinds of basil, 3 kinds of onions, 4 kinds of peppers, 2 kinds of potatoes, and 3 kinds of lettuce. Variety is indeed the spice of life and it also provides the variety that will protect your crop. Still to come, the sweet potato experiment (going to try rooting one) and carrots and radishes, a sun shade for the lettuce,  a small solar cooker and a new compost bin. Looking forward making tomato sauce and the apple gleaning season that will result in sauce as well. It's great to walk into the pantry on a winter evening, choose a jar and taste the summer!

Today's harvest: Red Sails lettuce, Italian Basil, Oregano!!!

Thrifty garden news!! The Canned Goods store on 4th Plain in Vancouver, WA has organic veggie and herb plants (from a certified nursery in Oregon) for very reasonable prices. Many of the pots have several plants. One tiny pot of purple basil yielded 6 plants for $1.59!

Even if you can only have a couple of pots on your balcony or patio, growing part of your own food is a step toward sustainability and away from the fossil fuel based rat race.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Growing Stuff and Some, Semi Good News

The allisium I planted last week has sprouted! Addition lettuce and sweet basil sprouts have appeared. No sign of the hollyhocks, marigolds or potatoes that went in at the same time. Must be patient.

Got some lovely river rocks (free) that are becoming borders and a path. The path is a work in process but now the intention is clear. :)

Haven't bought salad greens this month and the "fresh from the garden" is great. Have harvested parsley for drying. Hoping for a dry morning so harvest oregano.

Thus far, 3 kinds of tomatoes (7 plants), 3 kinds of peppers (9 plants for goodness sake!), 3 kinds of lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, 2 kinds of potatoes, 2 kinds of onions, leeks, wild garlic, parsley, 2 kinds of culinary sage, white sage (for smudging) 2 kinds of lavender, oregano, thyme, 2 kinds of echinecea, hollyhocks, marigolds, nasturtiums, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, 2 walnut trees (sprouts discovered in the parsley) and several small maple trees from a neighbors garden bed.

We'll be cramming in some more herbs and perennials and adding more potted things as we go along.

Already planning the fall plantings of spinach, lettuce, potatoes and onions. Hopeful for late tomatoes as well. We had fresh tomatoes at Thanksgiving dinner in 2009.

1.Took our dog, Max, to Dove Lewis Hospital today. He has a cyst that has become infected. We are glad to know that is health is very good, over all. The cyst does not appear to be cancerous-no lymph involvement. He has antibiotics (that will be fun to administer) and now we have to find a vet to remove the cyst and who will accept a payment plan.

2.We go new front brakes on the car!!!

3.Eric is feeling better day by day!

Over all the news is good though the economy still sucks.

Thank you Goddess!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Longer Days At Last

It's nice to not have to get up in the dark, but the sun hitting my east facing bedroom window does have consequences. It's really early for a night owl!!

Sunrise: 5:34 AM PDT
Sunset: 8:40 PM PDT
Length of Day: 15h 06m
  Tomorrow will be 2m 5s longer.
Moon Rise: 12:34 PM PDT Moon Phase
Moon Set: 1:35 AM PDT
Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent
  46% Illuminated

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Garden...

provided the basis for last night's dinner. Harvested huge amounts of lovely Red Sails lettuce. Made our favorite salad with grape tomatoes (not ours quite yet), raisins, dried cranberries, and teriyaki grilled chicken. Really good!

We carefully harvested the lettuce leave so the plants are still viable and have reseeded around in the bed with a mixture of Black Seeded Simpson, Red Sails, and Butter Crunch lettuces for variety.

Three more beds to prep. Tomatoes, peppers, white and culinary sage, lavender and white swan echinecea to move outside. Potatoes go into the pots today. We will plant more spinach, yellow onions (first planting is up!), cucumbers, carrots in pots (our soil is very rocky-so much so that I'm using the rocks from the beds to make borders and a path!). Oregano and lavender to harvest and dry for winter.

Raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are blooming. First year for all three so may not get more than a snack.

This is a great book! I have the stained and tattered original.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Details, details

It's been a busy and rocky spring.

Major medical issues, a death in the family, a child in trouble with the law, musical success, musical frustration, garden growing ok, tomatoes beaten up by wind storms and hail. Sigh.

The days are getting longer, the nights warmer and, I hope, the rest of life is settling down a bit.

We recorded a cd, made the first BIG cut to play at Lilith Fest and are booking some out of town gigs for the summer and fall. Have a regular twice weekly gig at the airport (that is it's own story).

Next big project: Heart Beat - an all female singer/songwriter/musician concert to benefit the American Heart Association set for July 23rd. Getting the line up composed, working on the ad/psa video, press releases and looking for a local female celebrity to act as MC.

July 24 we are running the main stage for a local street festival and booking bands for the parade, teaching music lessons and have the Great Hall that evening. It's gonna be a full weekend folks but good!

Exposing a few of my more experienced students to Finale Notepad as a practical application to music theory. Getting some of them ready to play at a fund raising event for Vancouver Clark Parks & Recreation and all for their spring recital. Flutes, pianists and singers!! I am so lucky to have such great students.

Today we have a "food" photo shoot then rushing home to plant potatoes, more lettuce, spinach and some medicinal herbs. I think we're headed to MacAdams Bar & Grill for the songwriters open mic with Lyman Louis - great songwriter and recording engineer- Thanks Lyman!!

It's a typical day on the North Bank for TwoRivers Music.

Note: we, TwoRivers Music, are now individually affiliated with BMI. Eric is endorsed by Timbercreek Guitars and my song "Complicated Life" is still in competition for Lilith.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Upcoming plant exchange!!

Mark your calendars now and start potting up those plant divisions as you work in your yard. Bring them to the Plant Exchange on May 22 at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, 9800 SE Otty Rd.97086 at 10:00am. Go home with some new plants. We'll also have free food, garden info and door prizes, including a raised garden bed frame. We'll be featuring a speaker focusing on gardening in small spaces. (suburban yards) We'll also have info on our new community garden plots. No money exchanged. It's ALL FREE!!! See you there.

Gardening tools

Not every tool is kept in the garden shed/garage. One of the best I've found is
This is a free gardening journal. And you can see what others are doing in their gardening around the world.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Windy morning!

The raspberries are now in a planter box. We inherited two of these when our neighbor moved. Both filled with really lovely compost. Through freecycle we have dark blue paint for trim but I'm hoping someone has some white, gray, or light blue exterior paint to get rid of. Send me a note if you do!!!

It's supposed to get to 63 degrees today! Wind is gusting though. It's tempting to set out tomatoes but I'm afraid they would a) blow away, b) break under the force of the wind. Oh well. We're still not quite out of frost danger.

Cinnamon basil  and cilantro have sprouted. Nothing showing in the culinary sage or white swan echinecea. Started sunflowers, dill, green beans, two kinds of sweet alyssium, and marigolds. More in the laundry room/pantry. I will have to rethink that setup next year.

Parsley and chives look happy.

The neighbors thing I'm a bit odd. I've been out pouring boiling water on weeds around the rock borders. It's a slow but very efficient way to kill the nasty buggers.

We are in an area that has been a river bed for millenia so I have access to all sizes of river rock. I don't think this will be an easy place to grown root crops with out lots of work so they may go in pots. Anyway, rock borders are one way to go.

Our last trip to the Goodwill bin store was productive. We got 2 HUGE planters for around $.85 cents each. If you plan to go, take a friend or two as the price per pound goes down from $1.69 to $.89 when you reach 20 pounds of goods. Go with a plan but be open minded. It's amazing what other people throw away.

Happy gardening and happy thrifty hunter gathering! Enjoy the sunshine!

Monday, April 5, 2010


It's 45 degrees, rain and wind. Hail possible today. Where is spring?

Raspberries and calendula are growing though I haven't decided where to put them!

Chives are blooming in the wind.

Parsley has been green and growing all winter but looks very happy now. 

Strawberries have adapted to their little bed. Yes, those are noritaki saucers. Planning to plant sweet allysum in front of the saucers. The Goodwill bin store is the source for the saucers, pillar, pot and angel. The wind has been a bit hard on the nasturtiums.

Poured several tea kettles of boiling water on places where weeds and grass are growing in what will someday be tidy borders. It's a chemical free way to clear up those pesky areas.