Thursday, April 30, 2009

More planting

Our main summer garden is in an area that is really wet all winter. So we can't plant over wintered crops there. We have to wait each spring until the soil dries out enough for planting. Well, today we got out there and prepared a bunch of beds and planted sunflowers, potatoes, onion sets, Red Fyfe wheat and some black garbanzo beans that we are trying for the first time. Starting Sunday we will get a bunch of flower seedlings that are sitting in cold frames waiting for the ground to be ready in the ground. I have flats of stocks, asters, annual sweet william, statice and godetia ready to go.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Birds and Flowers

All of a sudden changes are everywhere. Baby lettuces can be set outside, the cherry and plum trees are in full bloom, there are tulips instead of daffodils. The violet green swallows came back today. When they first show up they fly all around the barn and chitter madly as if they are really glad that the trip is over and they are here again. They and several barn swallows nest in our barn every year.
And the new leaves on the wild Nootka roses are releasing their wonderful spicy scent into the air in the evening. These roses have scented foliage and as there are acres of them on the island this time of year the air is filled with their incredible scent.

And, oh yeah, the eagle is back harassing the chickens in the early morning. He/she sits on top of the chicken tractor cage and the chickens go mad. We wake up to the noise and charge outside and chase the eagle away. I wish I had a time lapse camera to get a picture of the thing. Bald eagles are huge and amazing when they are sitting on the ground (or on a chicken cage).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hoophouse Number 3

We finished up our third hoophouse last week. Eventually there will be four. They are made from a framework of rebar covered with white Irrigro soaker tape. The rebar, being dark, will heat up and degrade the plastic touching it if it isn't white. You can paint it. Or like our first two hoophouses, you can wrap it with white duct tape. But that broke down too quickly. So this is Joel's new idea.

The rebar is pushed into the ground, supports are fastened along the length and frames for the doors built into the ends.
Then the plastic covering is put over the frames. This plastic comes from Northern Greenhouse and has an expected life time of 6 to 8 years or more.
The edges are buried in trenches along the sides and ends to resist the wind.
The ends are folded up against the door frame. The piece we get is 10 feet longer than the house and that gives us enough to cover both ends and cover the doors with what is cut off. The tomato plants in the greenhouse are nearly ready to be planted in this new house.

Friday, April 24, 2009

First Outdoor Market of the Season

Tomorrow is the first outdoor Farmers Market in Friday Harbor. So we are spending the day harvesting. We'll have the last of the winter leeks and the first of the spring rhubarb . Also lots of purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, mixed bags of mustard greens, a bit of lettuce mix, herbs, radishes, kale, and napini of several sorts. Those of you who read this blog and live on San Juan Island get out and spread the word.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wool Rugs

I've finished all the placemats and yesterday started on the first batch of wool rugs. These will be all light grey wool on a linen colored warp. I have bags of washed skeins sitting in the studio and I wound a bunch of them onto quills to put in my shuttles. James III wanted to help.

And then I started weaving. The Cotswold fleeces are a mixture of shades and I love the way the variations work out in the weaving. There is enough warp for 5 rugs and I had finished 3 by this evening. The next warp will be black yarn and dark grey wool and the final one (for the time being), an off white one with white wool.

And we planted parsnip seed this afternoon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Family Photos

LinkI've started uploading some of my old family and farm photos to a Flickr site. I thought that some of the readers of this blog might enjoy them. I have a huge apple box of photos that I am going through and will gradually add some selected ones to this site.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Baby Shower

I just got home from a flying trip to Seattle for a baby shower for my middle daughter, Marilla. My daughter, Jennie picked me up at the ferry in Anacortes and we drove through the Skagit Valley daffodil fields on the way to the freeway. The flowers are a bit late this year (so what else is new) but they were gorgeous as usual. As we don't often get to the mainland at the right time to see the show this was a treat.
The shower was fun. Here is my granddaughter, Iris, helping Mom open her presents. This is a baby blanket that I wove for what who are still calling "Baby Sister". Can't wait to meet her in person

And part of the treat of the weekend was to get to fly home from Bellingham. When I first moved to the island in 1972 there was no water taxi service and the kids and I flew to Bellingham once a month to shop. In those days, me, the two kids and the dog could fly round trip for $21. Sigh. It is a lot more expensive now which is why I don't get to do it very often. But it is so very, very beautiful to fly over the islands on a sunny morning like today.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fancy Daffodils

LinkA couple of years ago I bought 1000 daffodils to plant swathes of them here and there around the farm. To do that I looked for the cheapest bulk daffodils I could find. And there are daffodils blooming all over the place now. However, last year I decided to go for a small quantity of really fancy ones and bought a collection called Rinus Rim daffodils from John Scheepers Bulb Company . "Each variety has a well-formed ivory to white perianth and a trumpet- or bowl-shaped cup in ivory, pale yellow, golden-yellow, pale peachy-pink or apricot-pink with a wavy or frilled rim edged in contrasting rose-pink, reddish-orange or apricot-pink." (that's a direct quote from the Scheepers web site). They are from Dutch bulb breeder Rinus van der Salm and they are exquisite.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Overwintering Vegetables

Ah, we are finally getting warmish days and nights that are staying above freezing (even occasionally above 40) and the plants that survived the winter are responding. Here are three of our standby overwintered vegetables. Above is purple sprouting broccoli.
And a variety of overwintered cauliflower. These and the sprouting broccolis are planted in June in flats and planted out into the garden in July. They grow all summer and fall, and hopefully survive the winter to start flowering in the spring. The taste is nothing like their summer counterparts. These vegetables are so sweet and tender.
Our real mainstay are kale buds. Napini is the term for the buds of any brassica, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collards, kale. Each taste slightly different but all are tasty nutritious spring treats. They should be steamed or sauted quickly as they easily overcook as they are so tender.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Indoors and Outdoors

I'm almost done with my spate of placemats. I put a 6 color warp on the big loom for the last batch of rag placemats and then put the same colors on another loom (above) to make potholders out of the left over rags. These are so pretty. I'm glad I saved these bright ones for the last. The others are pretty but more subtle and as I am running out of steam for placemats, these help me keep going.
Meanwhile Joel was out in the barn starting to shear our sheep. He doesn't try and do them all at once. We have ten adults to shear this year, and he'll do two or three a day. He uses hand shears as he just prefers them to the electric ones. The lambs are so funny when you release the moms as they just don't recognize her without all her wool. "That's not my Mom, she's twice that big, and woolly, and...." The ewes just give them these Mom looks as if their kids have gone over the edge. and the babies run around and bleat and finally either smell or sound or just comments from Mom convince them that they haven't lost her after all and all is well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Peach Blossoms

Blossoms are bursting out all over. The peach tree on the back porch is in bloom. We grow our peach tree under the back porch roof to keep the rain water off it in winter. This prevents the peach leaf curl disease from getting a chance to take hold. Otherwise in this climate peaches often succumb to this malady.
Throughout the gardens the daffodils, grape hyacinths, early Greigii tulips, the forsythia and flowering currant are all in bloom in spite of the fact that it is going to freeze tonight.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Busman's Holiday

We just came back from another weekend on Saltspring Island. None of our children were going to be on our island for Easter this year so we decided that we would take off. It was sort of a busman's holiday as, of course, we went to their farmers market.

There weren't a lot of vegetables but one vendor had these beautiful mushrooms. We did buy enough salad mix to have a lovely salad for dinner from another vendor.
There were a lot of artists and bakers. The weaver above had the most beautiful rugs from hand spun and dyed wool. The colors of her rugs were exquisite.
I found a neat cat mug as a birthday present for my sister from one of the potters.

In the small world category we spent an hour Saturday evening riding the local bus around the north end of the island so we could see a bit of the interior. Toward the end of the run we got to talking to the bus driver who, it turns out, raises Cotswold sheep and has a wife named Margaret who is a spinner and weaver. Margaret has been to Shaw Island to visit the nuns at the monastery who raise Cotswold sheep. This is where we got out first Cotswolds. That made our day. Next time we go up there we hope to get out to their farm, Windrush Farm, to visit and see what they are doing.
We ended up staying on Saltspring on Easter Sunday as it was too windy to go home. We spent most of the day on the boat reading and knitting (well, okay, I did the knitting). But in the evening the rain stopped and the sun came out and we walked up to the end of the harbor to a neat pub for dinner. We treated ourselves to hard cider on tap, one of the reasons we love to go to Canada (when we can't manage to get to England). What a lovely weekend.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Homemade Tortillas

One of my favorite meals is homemade tortillas served with lots of chopped vegetables and beans made into a bean paste. Trouble is that it is a lot of work for just the two of us so I relish the opportunity to have people over to dinner. Somehow cooking for the 6 we had tonight makes it feel worthwhile. My daughter and her family came over for my special taco dinner.

The tortillas are made from half masa harina and half white flour, and water and then rolled out with a rolling pin and cut using an 8" pot lid as a cutter. 2 cups of each and 2 cups of water made 15 tortillas. They are then quickly cooked in a hot frying pan with a little oil. I keep them in my gorgeous tortilla keeper that my daughter gave me for a Christmas present many years ago. It is probably my favorite piece of china. I love the peppers on it.

The beans are just red Mexican beans cooked till soft and mashed into a paste with garlic, cumin, chili powder and Mexican oregano, lippia graveolens, a relative of lemon verbena, not a member of the oregano family. Spread the beans on the tortillas and top with cheese, onion, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, olives and salsa.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Well, the hummingbirds are here. I understand that they follow the flowering currant up the coast. And ours started blooming a couple of days before I heard the first hummingbird zoom by. They are such feisty little things. They fight and squabble and divebomb each other. I was sitting on the back porch tearing up strips for rag rugs and ducking every once in a while as one of them would dive just over my head. Theser are rufous hummingbirds.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Break

It's spring break and our oldest daughter arrived yesterday with family, neighbor, and a passel of friends on their fishing boat.
Today she came over and helped me dig up and move the dahlias. They are planted in a 40" bed, in rows 3 feet apart, 30" apart in the rows. After three years they are so huge that I can't get between the plants to harvest the fowers. So then they get dug up, the big bunches of tubers thinned out, and replanted.
They go into the new bed the same way. We'll move the mulch from the old bed to the new and plant peas in the old bed.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring at Last?

Yesterday was the last of the winter Farmers Markets. Three weeks from now we start back to the once a week outdoor market. Hope we have a few things ready to sell. Above is the first of the lettuces from the hoophouse to be ready. We added them to some salad mix from a friends farm as we didn't have enough ourselves. It was very satisfying to harvest that lettuce.
Today was the first day that has felt like spring. The thermometer even said that it got over 60 degrees. Whoopee! I spent the morning inside warping up a loom for potholders but went out in the afternoon and weeded most of a bed of biennial sweet william and helped Joel plant our first peas. We put in 4, 40' rows of Sugar Ann snap peas. The peach tree at the back porch is in bloom. The flowers next to the greenhouse wall have come out first as it is warmer there. What a lovely day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Graduation Quilts

I recently got my instructions for this year's graduation quilt. We have a tradition of making a friendship quilt for each year's graduate(s). This year there is only one boy in the eighth grade and his Mom sent out instructions for making the quilt blocks. The instruction go out to just about everybody who's currently here and the quilt top will be designed based on how many squares turn up by the deadline. Ones that come in late sometimes get put on the back or made into pillow tops. The Waldron school has 13 students in it this year (when they are all there as one parent said. One student is coming back today from a winter in Costa Rica). Graduating classes are frequently one or two students.
When Siri graduated in 1999 there were two students in her class and we had to hustle to finish two quilts. If I remember correctly they weren't quilted by graduation day and we had to take them back and finish them.