Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spring Chickens

After two years of having three beautiful Rhode Island Red hens, they moved down the hill to Ted and Terry's-on a trial basis-we were going to be gone a lot and T&T wanted to see if having chickens worked for them-win/win situation. Well, T&T fell in love with "the girls" and "the girls" fell in love with the Taj Mahcoop. What hen wouldn't-automatic door opener-music-lights-what's not to love. Our coop is more like a Hampton Inn by comparison-cute but not very big-just your average English hen house.

So, here we are,Spring and NO CHICKENS-what to do? After a few phone calls I find someone who will have pullets by mid-June. But somewhere in the midst of my week I chat with my neighbor up the hill, Dana, who has raised baby chicks and just loves the whole process-for some reason I have never raised chicks-could I do that? We don't have a barn-our home is small-it could take some time-could be sort of messy-but it sounds like fun and Dennis thinks it could be fun too-HAVE WE LOST OUR MINDS OR WHAT! Cenex has plenty of chicks and we are going off-island anyway And I found and article in Cappers(Sept./Oct. 09) about building a chicken brooder out of three cardboard boxes and some strapping tape-how cool is that-IT MUST BE A SIGN-chicks are in our future! So, we are off to pick up chicks.

Well, we are home now with the new babies-they are so cute-Dennis and I are smitten. We invite neighbors in to meet them-we gaze at them tenderly-we tell our Westies that they must protect Their chicks-WE HAVE LOST OUR MINDS and this is FUN!

The brooder box went together so easily and is now part of the dining room furnishings, at least for the near future. The chicks settle in nicely-their chirping is so sweet and they are growing so fast-eat-sleep-poop-that's what's going on in the brooder box.

We have 3 golden Sexlinks, 5 black Sexlinks and 2 Leghorns. Sometimes we find them asleep in groups according to color. Other times, napping is fully integrated.

The next step will be outings on warm days in a portable coop and then the final move to the chicken coop.

I got double the number of chickens that I wanted to end up with, so just incase we lost some we'd still have enough to supply eggs for us and some to share. So far all are healthy and happy. We may end up with 10 hens or maybe a rooster or two.

Now, my next project is to find some old golf balls to put in the laying boxes.


Monday, March 1, 2010

A Bouquet of Daffodils

Several years ago I got interested in bulbs-the idea of putting a small, brown object in the ground and having it transform itself into a thing of beauty a few months later just facinated me-I did some research, talked to other gardeners and landscapers, and decided that daffodils were the best bet for our area-low maintenence-deer resistant AND they multiply-so off I go to get daff bulbs-thanks to a condition I struggle with-OCD-anything worth doing is worth over-doing-and I arrive home with 3 crates of daff bulbs(about 500). We have an alder grove at the corner of our farm just crying out for some spring color and daffs are the answer! I prepare to plant-dividing the bulbs into groups of 50-a large box of bone meal-small bulb planter-and off I go on a clear,beautiful October morning-desiring to beautify our little corner of the world. I carefully place each bulb into attractive groupings-dig small holes-twice the depth of the bulbs width and proceed to plant my first 50 bulbs-this could take awhile-I get through my second batch of 50 bulbs and decide there has to be an easier, faster method-taking off on the "naturalizing" aspect of daffs, I devise a new plan-I now stand in the general area where I want the bulbs-bag of 50 in handand begin to toss them,gently, in the air-where ever they land is where they get planted-I take my LARGE shovel, put a slice in the ground, push the handle forward opening an area where I drop in some bone meal,drop in the bulb or bulbs,remove the shovel and step on the soil that remains-Now, isn't that simple!

Daffs are a hardy lot and over the years I have been rewarded with georgeous spring blooms in the alder grove. I've added different sizes, colors and bloom times of daffs -almost every fall I plant some more. I've also added some snowdrops and crocus here and there for variety and we enjoy early spring color for many weeks, just when we need it the most.

Sometimes I cut daffs to sell at the Farmers Market or to enjoy inside, but mostly I love them in their natural setting. The entire neighborhood seems to love watching them grow-usually beginning in January-the first tips emerge and we all anticipate the coming show-AHHHH-simple pleasures. So, if you are out and about on San Juan Island and love daffodils, at the corner of Miller Road and Three Corner Lake Road, the show is beginning.....and it's FREE! ENJOY!

P.S.My new favorite gardening book: Gardening in the Pacific Northwest by Carol and Norman Hall from Timber Press. It's fabulous, informative and the photography is very inspiring. I highly recommend it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Oh Deer!!!


They are beautiful , graceful, quiet, such a part of the forest, farm and town scenery here on San Juan Island and really hungry this time of year!

Most of my gardens are naturally deer-resistant and with three game trails through our property, that's a goood thing.MOST perennial herbs are not on the menu for deer so rosemaries, lavenders, sages, santolinas, thymes,and oreganos are a good bet. I've also used lots of heaths, heathers and many evergreen trees and shrubs that don't tempt MY deer. But at this time of year and then again in late summer, all bets are off and they may nibble on all sorts of plants that are on the "Deer-Resistant List". They may not have read that chapter of the gardeners' book. Last autumn they nibbled on bergenia, bears breech, bachelor buttons, hardy geraniums, hops, yarrow and FENNEL, of all things, here on the farm.

Over the years I've developed a strategy for dealing with my deer. I don't even consider growing roses or any other proven deer-attractants and if I test a plant and the deer find it irresistible I just don't plant any more of it. I've also tested several sprays over the last few years-some smell so awful you might think there is a dead animal in the garden and others smell o.k. but their effectiveness is questionable and they are all so expensive - so when my Mom gave me a recipe for deer repellent from her garden club in the South Willamette Valley, where the deer are large and plentiful, I figured it was worth a try and to my amazement it is very effective.


2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 TBS. dish washing liquid[I use Dawn]
2 TBS. hot chili oil
1 TBS. curry powder
4 tsp. liquid fertilizer

Whisk all together

Makes {4} four gallons of deer repellent when mixed with water.

Store unused portion in refrigerator-will keep up to a month.

Mix 3/4 cup of repellent with {1} one gallon of water into a sprinkling can or pump sprayer. When using a pump sprayer, strain the mixture several times so the sprayer won't clog.

Sprinkle or spray generously on any plants at risk. Do some plants early in the month. Then switch it up and spray on other plants later in the month . The spray will last about a month and should be reapplied after heavy rain or overhead watering.

This spray is also rumored to kill aphids and help to prevent black spot and mildew.

I tested this spray last spring in an area where the Bambie's' are usually browsing and BEHOLD AND LOW-the browsing never happened.

I've also invested in a "Scare Crow" motion activated water sprinkler which I move around my gardens-this is a great deterrent-I just have to remember to tell Dennis which area I've put it in for the night-he's had some surprises when he takes our dogs out for their midnight stroll. I'm considering another "Scare Crow" sprinkler this season-one for each end of the farm-that could get interesting.

I do have my veggie garden fenced which takes care of the deer situation-fencing is expensive and my gardens don't lend themselves to fencing as we are on a sloping hillside-so all of these other strategies have been helpful in co-existing with our local fauna, after all, they were here first.

Some of my favorite deer-resistant plants are:

eupatoriums-not Chocolate Eupatoriums
lemon balm

acanthus mollis
hardy geraniums-not all
ivy-not all
lambs ears
rock rose
shasta daisy

None of these are fool-proof but we stand a better chance with these than with roses! Happy Gardening.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Got Zucchini?

What an encouraging plant to grow-as a novice gardener in the 70's I planted six zucchini plants in my garden in Southern California-lots of sun,warmth and water-I could have supplied a developing nation with zucchini-but instead I chose to supply my friends,neighbors,co-workers and extended family with this great summer squash that few of us knew how to use-I felt such a sense of accomplishment-helping to feed all these people from my little garden-I was encouraged by my sucess to continue on in my gardening adventures.

There is a folk saying in the San Juans 'the only time we lock our cars is in the summer-if not, you may return to a front seat loaded with zucchini'.

One of my best zucchini years was the one I didn't plant a single one-I just mentioned to a few of my gardening friends that I just LOVE zucchini and had not planted any-I was on the receiving end of a bumper crop-how easy was that!!

So if you want to grow something that will boost your 'gardening ego'try zucchini. I've planted several varieties over the years, Black Beauty is a traditional favorite of mine and next spring I want to try the Romanesque variety-deeply ribbed and speckled with a great sturdy flavor- I've purchased some from Susan and Peter Corning at Synergy Farm and found them very impressive.

Over the years recipes using zucchini have proliferated-breads,muffins,cookies,cakes,pickles-we seem to love to find ways to use this gratifyingly, abundant vegetable. I grate fresh zucchini into a shallow,microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes. Drain and add some grated cheese and a grind of pepper on top. Return to the microwave and cook a little more, until the cheese begins to melt-a fast and easy fresh veggie that will amaze you with wonderful flavor.

Another way to use zucchini is in:

Zucchini Stew

1 lb. ground turkey
1 jar Marinara sauce
1 large can tomatoes
2-4 zucchini
fresh ground pepper
fresh mushrooms-optional

Brown ground turkey in a large soup pot. Drain if needed. Add Marinara sauce , tomatoes and a grind or two of fresh pepper. Stir together and add chunked up zucchini and, mushrooms. Cover and simmer on low until veggies release their liquids,stirring often. Top with grated cheese and serve with a warmed baguette from Bakery San Juan and Enjoy!

At one time I had a recipe for bread&butter pickles but over the years it ,has gone missing so, I think I'll Google and see what comes up-after all, I've got another bumper crop of zucchini just waiting in the garden!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Transition Gardening in Friday Harbor


Well, the rhubarb has wound down along with my shelling peas-the pea vines and trellis are gone and the last of the rhubarb is in the freezer for later use.The mustards have also finished for now so I have three blank areas to begin planting some winter veggies in-I'm very excited about winter gardening-I've done a bit of it for the last two fall/winter seasons with mixed sucess, so this summer I'm trying to get ahead of the game and actually do some PLANNED planting-it's just so difficult to think about planting and seeding in August-but there is lots of information out about winter gardening and veggie plant vendors at the Farmers Market have a wonderful selection of starts for our fall gardening pleasure-Heather and Jessica of Revolutionary Roots have some beautiful kales and the much-sought-after purple sprouting broccoli and Keith,Roger and Eric of Your Personal Farmer have a great selection of collards,kales,Chinese cabbage and a great blend of kales in small packs,just the right size for experimenting in the garden.

Joel and Margaret Thorson of 1000 Flower Farm have been encouraging all of us to plant a few extra rows of fall/winter crops so we will have wonderful,abundant veggies at the winter Farmers Market-gosh, it's really a stretch to think "Winter Market" after about 90 days with less than an inch of precipitation and record high temperatures!!!

Well, back in my veggie garden-I have begun harvesting the potato patch-I planted Russetts,Pontiac Reds,French Fingerlings,and Apple Rose Fingerlings-I LOVE to grow potatoes-a fresh potato is an amazing,wonderful product, crisp and tasty beyond belief-nothing like a store-bought potato-try some from the Farmers Market, roasted with other root veggies and some garlic, drizzled with a good olive oil and some fresh-cracked pepper-YUM-Yum-another favorite recipe I love to use with fresh potatoes is:

Potato Salad with fresh Tarragon
4 large Russett potatoes
apple cider vinegar
2 cups garlic mayonaise
1/3-1/2 cup fresh tarragon
1 red onion, chopped
salt and pepper,to taste

Cook and peel potatoes. Dice them while they are still warm and douse them liberally with vinegar. Add garlic mayo,fresh tarragon,chopped onion and salt and pepper. Mix very gently and refrigerate overnight.

VERY simple and soooo tasty-Enjoy!

These photos are courtesy of my neighbor, Gail Seitz, who makes garden art from my rhubarb leaves. Pretty wonderful - Huh!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rhubarb 102

Ah Rhubarb -

I'm just about knee deep in fresh rhubarb. The more I harvest, the more my plants produce! As the heat of summer settles in it will slow down and then stop producing since it doesn't care for hot weather. But until then I can barely keep up - more chopped rhubarb in the freezer, more jam, more Victoria sauce and more spicy rhubarb chutney.

Spicy Rhubarb Cutney Recipe:
1 1/4 lbs rhubarb trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup dried cherries
2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro leaves

In a four quart saucepan combine brown sugar, vinegar, onion, coriander, ginger, mustard and salt. Bring to a boil. Cook over high heat uncovered for three minutes stirring constantly. Stir in rhubarb, apricots and cherries. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer, stirring as needed, until rhubarb is just tender but not broken up (about ten minutes). Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and let cool ten minutes.
Refrigerate until ready to use.

This makes a great glaze for pork tenderloin and is also a wonderful confiment for pork chops, lamb chops, roast beef and ham.

I'm always searching for new and different ways to use rhubarb. For instance, one of my neighbors uses my rhubarb leaves as casts for concrete garden art. They are so beautiful and I'll include some photos in my next blog. So, if you have any ideas you would like to share please contact me.

As I prepare to make another batch of gingered rhubarb jam I look around at the waiting jars, lids, bands, large wooden spoons and big kettle and I feel a renewed connection with both of my grandmothers who loved preserving the bounty of the garden for their families. Thanks, Grandmas

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dennis's Comment re: rhubarb

O. K. - Rhubarb is a wonderful plant and very self-sufficient. If you want to know more about the plant and its origins you should listen to Garrison Keilor's monologue on the topic. It's hilarious. By dint of hard work, Gayle has me approaching the point at which I can recognize lavender, rosemary, some mints, and rhubarb at will and without help. She has friends who talk with her using the Latin names, genus, species, etc. as if they're actually communicating in an organized language. I think this is one of the reasons I'm a back office worker not allowed to interact with her customers. Have you ever had a real rhubarb with somebody?