Thursday, June 26, 2008


I love roses. I have planted all sorts all around the farm, species roses, old roses, English roses, roses rescued from construction sites. I've gone out and taken pictures of a few of them.

The deep pink rose is rosa gallaica officianalis, an old rose that dates back to the Romans and from which attar of roses was traditionally made. The small white single one is rosa spinosissima which grows wild near Deer Harbor, WA. I grew this one from cuttings taken from one of those.

This red single rose is a wild rose rosa moyesii which I grew from seed. The big white bush is rosa multiflora, the parent of many, many rambling type garden roses. The pale yellow is Harrison's Yellow or the Yellow Rose of Texas. When I was a kid I rode my horse with a local drill team and we did our presentation to the song, The Yellow Rose of Texas. I have a special fondness for the song and for this rose. The pale pink one is probably my favorite rose, New Dawn. A garden rose at least 100 years old, there was one growing on my grandmother's house when I was little. She gave me a cutting for a present which is still growing on our old place in Tacoma. When I first moved to Waldron in 1972 the cabin I lived in had a New Dawn growing on it which made me feel right at home. I took cuttings of that one and have two big bushes of it here on the farm.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lettuce and kale

Some of the many varieties of lettuce that we grow: At the top is Emerald Oak, below that is Oscarde, below that Nevada, then Grandpa's, and on the bottom row the green is Jericho and the red ones are Red Eye Cos.

And here is Red Chidori kale, a new variety of ornamental kale that is also good to eat and so beautiful.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


This is the greenest spring I've seen in a long time. Often by now things have begun to turn brown and by the middle of August the lawn (which we do not water) and the pastures are more golden than green. But with all the cool, wet weather everything from the garden to the overgrown lawn, trees, pasture, are GREEN, GREEN, GREEN.

The yellow water irises by our pond were planted many years ago and have gradually spread to just about surround it. They are so beautiful in the spring and one day will probably completely fill in the pond.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cinnabar Moth

A number of years ago the cinnabar moths were introduced to San Juan County because they eat tansy ragwort an introduced weed that is harmful to livestock. We did at one point have tansy growing in our fields probably brought in inadvertently with hay. Joel and Siri would go out each spring and search for the plants to remove them. It is easy to find them when they are in flower with their characteristic yellow bloom, but Siri as a small child was especially good at spotting the plants when they were small and not blooming. Between the two of them they eliminated it from our place. And then a few years ago the moths showed up here. As they were never actually introduced to this small island they have to have flown over from one of the larger islands.

They are incredibly beautiful with their bright red and black wings.

And the caterpillars are also wonderful, yellow and black striped. Although we do not have any tansy for them to feed on, they will also feed on a common weed in the senecio family and as we like to keep them around just in case tansy reappears here we make a point of not pulling all their favorite weeds out of the garden.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Opening for the year at Roche harbor

Add ImageI spent Sunday at my Roche harbor booth. My friend and partner in this endeavor, Pat McDole had opened the booth last weekend while I was at the Studio Tour. You can see her work at the Island Studios website.

My rugs and some of my hats and bags are displayed on the door of our booth. Our new partner Phoebe Grant Designs from Orcas Island
makes the beautiful silver jewelry in the picture to the right. The booth will be open seven days a week in July and August and I'll be spending two days a week on San Juan Island running it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Planting out Winter Squash

Well, it finally warmed up enough and stopped raining long enough to get the winter squash plants set out. This year we started them inside in soil blocks because the weather has been so cold. In a warmer year we would have just direct seeded them.

As you can see in the picture we put the plants through holes in a large piece of black plastic. This suppresses weeds so we can plant in an area that has a lot of quack grass or other difficult to eradicate weeds and not keep that part of the garden out of production. At the same time, the black plastic warms up the soil which helps these warmth loving plants thrive. The few weeds that come through the holes can easily be pulled out and eventually the squash plants crowd out anything else. We can reuse the piece of plastic for three or four years.

We have also started our melons inside in soil blocks this year the same way and will put them out on their piece of plastic on Sunday. They weren't quite ready today.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Studio Tour

This last weekend was the annual San Juan Island Studio Tour. I was a guest artist at the lovely house and garden of painter Mary McCulloch. I set up my wares and a small loom in her studio with another artist, Nancy Lind who makes wonderful jewelery, many pieces including twisted and braided yarn. As a fiber artist I am especially fond of her work.

The house is on the Straits of Juan de Fuca and looks out across them to the Olympic Mountains. We hung some of my rugs and paintings by Rudi Weissinger and Mary McCulloch on the walls and fences and set sculptures by William Weissinger throughout the exquisite garden.

We had lots of people stop by to see our art and the garden and to chat. I sold 4 rugs and numerous smaller items. So all around it was a successful and really fun weekend.

Since I got home it has been raining so hard that we couldn't really get into the garden to do any serious work and my satellite internet connection wouldn't work. It can't "see" through heavy rain. Finally today the rain stopped and although it is still cloudy we were able to get out and rescue a bed of carrots that was in danger of succumbing to the weeds. And I could get online to write this.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Seed Crops

What you see here are two plants that we are growing out for seeds. The Italian parsley is one of several plants of that variety that survived the winter. Italian parsley isn't as hardy as the curly type, all of which came through just fine, so we would like to see if we can increase the hardiness of the strain by selecting those plants which are hardier and saving seed from them. We have pulled out all the curly parsley so that it won't cross with that and we will get the flat leaved kind of parsley.

The lupines are the same. In my garden most of the lupines succumb to mold before they can produce many flowers. so for the last couple of years I've been pulling out all the unhealthy plants and saving seed from the sturdy ones. I'm not getting as nice colors as I did from the original seed strain but they do seem healthier. I'll keep growing the original strains and letting them cross with my survivor lupines in hopes of getting both healthier plants and good color.

Saving your own seed isn't as simple as just letting things go to seed. If you want good plants that do what you expect them to do you have to select the best ones to let go to seed. You can't take seed from the runty ones that you left in the garden because they weren't edible. And you do need to know something about which plants cross pollinate if you want them to come true to seed. We never try to save squash seed because we grown lots of varieties and they will all cross. There's a great book, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe that goes into great detail on breeding vegetables. Joel relies on it a lot when deciding to grow a seed crop. For dinner tonight we had a head of Giant Caesar lettuce, a variety that was dropped from the seed catalogues a few years ago. It was a great lettuce for us so Joel grew some of his last seed as a seed crop. And this years plants are from our own seed.

So we grow our own seed when we want to improve a variety for our own climate niche, continue to raise a variety that has been dropped from commerce, or just for food security knowing that we can grow food for ourselves and not be entirely dependent on large seed companies.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Very Low Tide

One of the lowest tides of the decade this noon made the people unloading our food coop order lay planks from the float which was almost sitting on the ground to trucks on the beach instead of hauling big heavy boxes and bags up the really steep ramp.
Meanwhile Joel and I took the boat out to Mouatt Reef which is normally under water, to see what it looked like with the very top showing. Normally all you can see is the kelp attached to it floating around. We also checked out Danger Rock between here and Stuart Island which wasn't above water and all we could see were streamers of kelp. Both places need to watched out for if you are in a boat at low tide.
Then we went out to White Rock to see what it looked like at the incredibly low tide. There were three eagles flying around, not particularly spooked by our presence. Several sea birds were yelling heartily at them.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Market News

We've had a little bit of lettuce the last couple of weeks but this was the first time we've had a whole bunch of nice big heads. This is our special crop. Joel grows over 50 varieties of lettuce every year and specializes in beautiful, unique, tasty varieties.
My friend, Betsy, is joining me this summer in my crafts booth. Betsy has returned to the island after 6 years in Seattle putting two daughters through high school. This happens to a lot of us as our island school only goes through the 8th grade. Sometimes children are boarded with friends or family and sometimes the whole family moves off for the duration. Just depends on what works best for the whole family and how many other children are involved.

Betsy makes Cedar Spirits, wonderful creations of cedar branches, soaked in glycerin to preserve them and keep them soft, found objects, dried flowers and herbs with hand crafted totally individual ceramic heads. She is setting up a website which is currently under construction and will be selling them on ebay and in an Etsy store soon. I will add links to these as soon as they are up and running.

It was great fun to have a third person helping out. When I set up my crafts at market I end up running back and forth between selling lettuce and rugs and often miss a sale because there was no one in the booth when someone comes to look at the weaving and knitting. Betsy was great at talking to the customers and helping keep the vegetable baskets full. I am going to enjoy working with her this summer. And I sold 4 rugs so it is definitely working!