Does Anybody Know. . .

. . .what these pink flowers are?  I recognize the cute little Johnny Jump Ups and the ugly orange Nasturtiums.

I planted the pink ones from seed too and very carefully stuck the empty seed packet in the ground right next to them for identification.  I planted several new varieties of flowers to see which ones I liked and did well in our climate.

I had very good intentions of going back with my plastic tags and permanent marker to write down the names of the flowers.

But you know what they say about good intentions.  The permanent marking did not get done – and these flowers grew well and are an acceptable color.

After watering the flowers for months that little seed packet looks like what happens when you leave paper in your pocket and wash and dry the pants.  It is a blob.  So – anybody know what the pink flowers are?

Ripe Tomatoes!

I know it will be hard for those of you in Southern California and Florida to believe, but just today we harvested our first tomatoes of the season.  Our far northern location – farther north than Maine and some parts of Canada – and close to the Cascade mountains is a whole different growing climate than we have been used to.  We are getting better at it though; we’ve found ultra early type of tomatoes that are specifically bred for cool, northern climates.  When they have names like Glacier and Northern Spring it is likely they will do well here.  In March I started our tomato plants from seed in our shed under flourescent grow lights.

In late May we planted the seedlings in the compost enriched garden soil inside wall-o-waters which helps hold in the heat.

The heat loving tomatoes do really well with the protection of the wall-o-waters; sort of like their own little greenhouse.

We fertilized them with my special recipe of manure tea which all the plants and flowers seemed to love.  Vigorous vines and lots of green tomatoes set on.

And voila!  Five months later. . . red, ripe tomatoes.

I would show you the wonderful bacon and tomato sandwiches we had, but we ate those so fast I didn’t take a picture.  Nothing compares to the flavor of vine ripened tomatoes mmmm.

Fall??

Could we really be seeing the first signs of autumn in the middle of August?  Yes.  Here is the vine maple last week when we were working on the new water line.

And here it is today.

I love the fall colors, but we are not ready for a new season just yet.

We are still trying to finish up summer.  Before fall we need to split and stack the firewood, roof the cattle shed, put caps on the posts, finish the fence around the garden beds . . .

Wild Berries

It is still a bit of a novelty for us to find edible things growing here that we did not plant or water.  The wild berries for example.  We have huckleberries, blackberries, salmonberries, wild strawberries, thimbleberries, dewberries,  and probably more that I don’t know how to recognize.  I’ve been picking the blackberries that are growing wild at the edge of the woods.  Love the berries, hate the thorns.  And let me tell you those wild berries have some major thorns.

I wore long pants and a long-sleeved shirt and still had scratches all over my arms.

According to my berry picking consultant Rio (seen here in the bucket of Melanie’s tractor)

“You have to wait until they are all the way black and come off really easy.”  That about sums it up.  Rio has the same berry picking technique Megan used to have in the strawberry patch – he eats every one he picks.  This really is a streamlined approach to picking, no need for a pail or container of any kind to slow you down.

 

Can’t wait for the jam and cobbler.

Check, Check

Lest you think we are spending all our time peacefully tending our garden (when we aren’t chasing cattle), here are a couple of the projects we have been working on lately.  We cleaned out the weeds and grass that threatened to take over our berries, then put down cardboard on the walkways.

Rick used our favorite neighbor Melanie’s (I always say Roger so I figure Melanie needs equal time) tractor to scoop and dump the gravel.

We smoothed it all up and it makes a really nice walkway – and best of all – no more weeds!  So on to the next project.  We needed to tie in the water line that we put under the berries when we dug that hole last year.  You can see the line sticking out below.

So, once again we used our favorite neighbor Melanie’s tractor; this time the backhoe part.

Rick had to dig very carefully to expose the water line next to the existing hose bib.  Some people have actually broken water lines when digging with a backhoe.  This is not good for many reasons; it makes a huge mess, usually including lots of mud in the hole you have to work in, it is very inconvenient as the water to your house usually has to be turned off to make the repair, and if you have to call in the professionals, it is expensive (I am actually quite OK with that part 🙂 ), and it is embarrassing to have to admit you dug into and broke your own water line.

Rick of course is a professional, so we had none of those worries.  What we do have are rocks.

Lots and lots of rocks – including some really big ones.

Though we have found rocks in every single hole we have dug around here, it still surprises me how many there are.  Eventually we got the ditch dug to the proper depth, extended the line, then put those rocks to good use covering up the line.  I have noticed a pattern here; if you are not the skilled one working on the project you are the one moving rocks.

So Rick put in the new fittings and hooked up the hose bib Karla and Larry generously left for us.

Since the ground freezes here and would also freeze standard hose bibs  – the kind everyone in Southern California has – here you use the freeze proof type.  It has a little drain at the bottom.

While Rick was installing the hose bibs and connections, guess who was covering up the rest of the line with rocks?

Yep, you guessed it, it was me.  I have got to learn some new skills!  After protecting the line with the rocks, Rick used the bucket to backfill the ditch.

We took out the rocks near the top of the hole so we could smooth it up and re-seed the grass.

All those rocks went to a good cause though.  Another neighbor is putting in a terrace using natural stone, so we saved the flat ones for her.  Grizzly is standing guard.

So there you have it – two more projects checked off our “to do” list.  Now we only 50 more to go.

False Advertising

I like growing flowers, and I have planted many different varieties.  The hydrangea above came back and bloomed again this year even though the puppies (remember the ten puppies?) chewed it to a stub last winter.  The cosmos below grew to over six feet tall.

These tough little pansies came up on their own between the rocks.

This rhododendron (Washington’s state flower) was planted by Karla and Larry – previous owners of AAR.

Miniature daffodils with violas – very cute!

I can’t take credit for the wildflowers – they grow wild as their name implies.  The foxgloves are very stately and elegant.

Dutch iris, more cosmos, petunias and a little pink flower I forgot the name of in an old milk can.

I planted these Johnny Jump Ups from seed in June – they are Rick’s favorite flowers – and they have just started blooming the past few days.

I love these Blenda tulips and hope to plant more this fall.

 

You may have noticed a pattern to the flowers I plant; pinks, white, blues, lavender, purple, some yellows but no reds and NO ORANGE.  Everyone has their own little idiosyncracies and this is one of mine.  No ORANGE flowers.  I have no place in my color palette or garden for ORANGE flowers of any kind (also no brown flowers – but if you ask me brown flowers are so completely ugly they cannot really be considered a valid flower; they are already dead they just don’t know it.)

I don’t dislike all things ORANGE.  I like pumpkins and autumn is one of my favorite times of the year with all the beautiful colors of the falling leaves.  I just don’t like ORANGE flowers. These asters are a lovely mix of colors I like.

So, knowing my antipathy for ORANGE flowers, you can imagine my horror when the lovely nasturtiums I planted started blooming.  This was how they looked on the seed packet – I was graciously allowing them into my garden in spite of the touches of peach on the petals because they were supposed to be edible as well as attract beneficials to the garden.

This is what is growing in my garden.

ORANGE flowers! Unbelievable!  And several shades of ORANGE to make it even worse.

This is not what was on the seed packet!  Where do I go to trade in these flowers for some in an acceptable color?  I am happy that they grew so well from seed; obviously our soil is getting a lot better with all the organic amendments we have been adding.  That chicken compost is good stuff – but really – ORANGE??  If it were a small area, I would have just yanked them out.  Unfortunately, I planted them in three different places in my new flower garden.

If I took them all out I would have a lot of bare ground and after much consideration I have decided that bare ground would be even worse than ORANGE, but it was close.  I have decided to exercise maturity, great restraint and self-control and not pull those ORANGE flowers out by their roots.

This has really been my first experience with growing flowers from seed and I have learned an important lesson.  You cannot always trust the picture on the front of the seed packet!  You could go to all the trouble of preparing your soil, planting the seed and carefully tending to the seedlings, weeding, fertilizing and nurturing the young plants and waiting patiently for them to mature and then . . . end up with ORANGE flowers.  Ugh.

I’m just going to pretend they are pink.

Growing Dinner

I must admit I’ve always considered salad something you eat before you start on the real meal.  Since we’ve tried growing lettuce and greens I’ve changed my opinion.  Iceburg lettuce was really the only kind of lettuce I was familiar with and to me it tastes like nothing – just something to hold your ranch dressing and croutons.  I have discovered that fresh-from-the-garden salad greens actually have  flavor; and it is very good.

We’ve been working on our garden beds and amending our soil which is very acidic, not to mention all the huge rocks.  After we dig out the rocks we’ve added lime and peat moss, shredded leaves and chicken manure compost.  This is our third year in the garden and we are starting to see good results.  One of the new crops we’ve started planting here are greens; lettuce, kale, spinach, mustard.  I’ve been really surprised at how easy it is to grow.  I tried some lettuce in Bakersfield and it didn’t do well at all.  Shriveled up and died in the heat.

Here the mild summer climate is perfect so I’ve planted several varieties of loose leaf lettuce.  I’ve also discovered lettuce has some really interesting names.   Flashy Butter Oak Lettuce is above. I haven’t tried Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed yet.  I did plant Devil’s tongue and Green Deer Tongue- very tasty.  Flashy Trout’s back is good and Speckles is one of my favorites.

When I plant every three or four weeks we have greens all summer.    You can just start to see the new seedlings sprouting next to the established row.

 

I’ve purposely planted way more greens than the two of us can eat.  Some we share with our neighbors – who doesn’t like fresh salad greens?  The chickens love the greens too and they are very nutritious, so I cut some and toss them to the girls every day.  Those hens really fight for their share.  Less chicken feed to buy and the greens are better for them anyway.  The egg yolks are a nice bright orange.

 

The best part of gardening is having fresh produce readily available.  From the garden to the table in minutes.

Rick was very skeptical when I first presented him with a salad that included flowers.  The borage and nasturtiums are not only edible but very tasty; the nasturtiums especially have a peppery flavor, and add some nice color.  Now we have salad as a main dish – though it does still need ranch dressing (thousand island for Rick) and croutons.