Monday, March 31, 2014

Redesigning the garden. Part 1.

On Halloween we moved to our “new to us” home. The house was built in 1950 of concrete blocks and sits on a 10th acre in a peaceful neighborhood.

We were smitten with the house on the first viewing, totally sucked in by the coved ceiling, fireplace and built in bookcase, not to mention a large eat in kitchen with ceramic tile counter tops and plenty of storage. The attached garage and fenced yard were added blessings and we immediately said “yes!”.

In the passing days we observed the neighborhood and saw raised beds, espaliered fruit trees, and patios in front yards so we felt we would fit in.

Spring has finally come to the northwest with rain, wind, sun, landslides and flowers. Now the time has come to get all the plants that have lived in pots for four years into the ground.

We have watched the pattern of sun and shadow to try to access the best location for sun hungry plants and have begun the planting out process.

When we left our former home, a 1950's duplex we brought with us: four blueberry plants, five currant plants, two hazelnut trees, one dwarf cherry tree, three dwarf apple trees, one bay tree, thirteen lavender plants, one comfrey plant, one grape vine, three culinary sage plants,one hydrangea, two rosemary plants,one oregano plant and two thyme plants – all in pots of various sizes. Happily, most of them made it through the winter and we are now hurrying to get them into the ground.

During an unusually dry and chilly winter there was some time for inspirational reading. I thoroughly enjoyed “The Quarter Acre Farm” by Spring Warren, “Gaia's Garden A guide to home-scale permaculture” by Toby Hemenway, and “How to Pick a Peach” By Russ Parsons and many others; keeping the public library and Amazon busy. Then, of course there are the seed catalogs. Page upon page of lovely veggies and fruits. My favorites are: Territorial Seed at, Botanical Interests at, and Raintree Nursery at, all of which offer free catalogs, newsletters, blogs and advice and are at least some what local to us.

One challenge is that our home was previously a rental for many years. Different people put things in the ground and left them. Some of this ground is needed for the previously mentioned “sun hungry”plants so we are removing and re-homing them as much as possible.

For some unknown reason we have begun with the front yard and will then move around to the back. Rhododendrons, and unidentified roses have moved to make way for blooming blueberries in a sunny area, with another “Rhody” moved from a shady bed that is home to a green, fuzzy carpet of baby lettuces. The western fence line houses the currant bushes, while on the east the bay tree, thyme and lavender cozy up to the front gate, with an unknown “table grape” in the corner and the hydrangea to the south. We are prepping a tomato bed by the front walk and in the attached, giant flower box tulips are blooming where we intend to plant peppers in the full sun.

Tomato bed


Front gate, Bay tree, lavender and thyme


Thanks to craigslist, and our Facebook friends we have acquired quite a bit of hardscaping – concrete edgers, and stepping stones, which we are placing as we go along. Luckily we have a small pickup truck and I have a patient and willing husband to help with all this.

Today we are expecting “showers” and we have two more large plants to remove, two more blueberries and nine or ten lavender plants to get into the ground. We now have enough edgers to finish lining the tomato bed and our usual workdays to contend with: teaching music, hosting open mics, managing a farmers market, completing a photo assignment, and final preparations for a concert at the “Historic Old Church” this Saturday. Busy week? Yes and it is all good.

The Historic Old Church Portland, Oregon

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Story of a Turkey.

Several years ago we bought a small,chest freezer from a craigslist ad. It has been very useful in our food storage plan.

After Christmas 2013, when frozen turkeys were on sale we ventured to our local grocery store. After choosing a 12 pound turkey we took it to the meat department where we were assured the turkey would be cut in half (while frozen) and we could pick it up the next day (still frozen).

The next day my husband, Eric, went to the store after work. The turkey was not cut in half, the next day the same. Day three the turkey was cut in half but completely thawed which defeated the purpose of getting a frozen turkey. We choose another turkey from the freezer and day four still no turkey. After speaking with management my husband was leaving the store in disgust when he heard over the store speaker system “Eric, with the turkey, please return to the meat department.” Victory at last!

Safely tucked in the freezer the turkey waited for several weeks. Eventually we thawed one half in the refrigerator and roasted it in our stainless steel roaster (thank you Value Village). It was tender and delicious. The leftovers became turkey salad and the bones went into the crockpot with ham bones and scraps from the Christmas ham yielding 10 pints of luscious broth. Labeled “meat juice” by my wonderful Master Food Preserver, Wacko husband, this will go into pots of wild rice soup and other good things.
How to Roast ½ a Turkey

6 lb half turkey
sea salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.
Lightly rub salt into the bird on both sides.
Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
Place the bird skin side up on a rack in a roasting pan.
Cover and roast at 350F for 1 hour.
Remove the cover and reduce heat to 325F.
Baste bird with its own juices every 15 minutes
Roast for 1-1/2 hours longer. Remove from oven when thermometer in breast registers 170F. Remove turkey from the roasting pan and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Serve with roasted root vegetables and enjoy!
He also made his fab Turkey Salad spread.

Turkey Salad Sammich Spread

Keep all chopped ingredients a consistent size

4 cups chopped left over turkey meat – both light and dark

3 regular size kosher dill pickles chopped

3 celery ribs chopped

4 green onion chopped

4 ounces black olives chopped

Stir chopped ingredients before adding the following spices

½ tsp ground pepper

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp ground cloves

Stir in enough olive oil based mayonnaise to make the mixture moist put not sloppy.

This is a great sandwich spread on home made sourdough bread and is good on crackers. Fine tune the spices to your personal taste.