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.