Thursday, September 4, 2014


Two years ago.

On Saturday:

They were earlier this year, but everything was.  Maybe this is the new on-time.  They were scabbier than two years ago, but better than last year, which was so dismal as to not - apparently - warrant documentation.  (Though many things were different last summer.)

The last photo is my version of conclusive evidence that the scab is what causes the crumbly (gross) core that Jeff has been blaming on bugs.  It is all scab!  I say.  Because scab is my enemy.

The big leaf clean up in early spring really did help, especially the Fuji, which is a healthier, better balanced tree in a space with better air movement.  (those won't be ready to harvest for a few weeks, at least)

The new tree looks effected (which I am suddenly realizing maybe I have not mentioned here?) but I am not jumping to conclusions.  Thing has about twelve leaves, and I selected it specifically for resistance.

I paid Z a penny an apple so I wouldn't have to crawl around in the undergrowth... I wonder if I can pay her by the bag for leaves?  The white icicle currant which I loved is just about dead of scab.  I'll pull it out this year.  We'll see if the new native current I put back there is also susceptible.  And I'm gonna put a million chive plants and shallots out there, and more nasturtiums around the trees.  Three years to no scab, say those nutty, fairytale-loving permaculturists.

We wait with baited breath!  Follow along for the next installment!

... and oh yeah, I made 16 pints of delicious applesauce.  First canning I'd done all season.  Took most of the day, felt great.  Hello, September.

Monday, August 11, 2014

the damn peas, the bloody blessed beans

Never again with the open source peas.  No purple podded specialty shit.  Alderman.  Maybe a shorter variety for the kids.  The end.

Those peas were GREY.  They did not burst with sweetness.  They were for after everything is broken, not before.

The Romanos, win.  We've had plenty of the runner type, Moonlight, to know they're plain not as good for stirs and such.  The rattlesnake I haven't harvested, except as filet beans which - as nearly all immature beans are - were delicious and tender as hell - when cooked with great care.

The honey and cream corn?  Not good.  No spark.  Mealy.

There's the report, for now.  The garden is lovely late summer, tall and dry, cracking and falling, dropping seed.  It's hot and humid.  We're 'watching' Sword and the Stone in the AC room.   It's feeling fine, in the good way.  Peace out.

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25

Maybe some other time this blog can be a place for poetry.  Right now, I want to go to bed.

No one's asking anything of this space except me, and I'm just asking for a record.

Does the garden continue to grow when no one blogs about it?  Even if the only photos are over-edited iPhone snaps?

Yes.  It grows and needs and gives.  It feeds me food and questions and - still, always - some of the best moments of my days.  Unrecorded.

But I do find myself looking back.  I need this record.  It helps me.  It doesn't come naturally.  I'm not one of these - seemingly endless - lady-types who write it all down anyway, who love the systematic recapitulation of their already lives.  But I also can't remember it all.

Today I cleaned the garlic.  Braided 11 heads of softneck into my first braid.  Hung it next to the ancient red peppers on their knotted string.  Didn't count the hard neck heads.  Two types, red skin and white, many of the red heads so lacking in outer wrapper that they are already falling to cloves.  They all were strongly affected by rust, and some are smaller than I have grown before but many are fine, big even.  All three varieties I bought from that hippie seed company that Erica gave me the name of Adaptive Seeds - one called Purple Glazer (ha! google-able inbox FTW) that I recall now I bought for the blurb that said it was so easy to peel... no wonder the heads are falling apart... and a mix called organic surprise sampler.  Classic Devon move.  Each head had a little sticker on it that said the variety.  Which I obviously noted very carefully in my notebook.  (Really.  I bet somewhere I made a map.  Very classic.)

Yesterday I cleared the center row (#2) of the rest of the peas, their supports, and some stray sunflowers, and chopped it with my rad new hoe from Concentrates.  Clara helped me plant carrots down the whole bed.  Having learned my lesson with the whole purple podded pea fiasco (not making an order from those hippies this year), I ordered the very same hybrid carrot varieties from Territorial that I had such success with last year, and planted more.  Merida (240 days) on the left (closer to #1); Nelson (58 days) on the right.  Er, with an end cap of Napa hybrid because those were just in my seed box?  And then I lost the mostly full envelope?  Full disclosure.

Harvesting beans.  I actually know where the map is that shows which varieties of pole beans I planted.  So far, the Helda Romanos are the best: prolific, tender.  We are going to get about ten ears of corn out of that bed if we are lucky, but it sure looks nice.

The whole yard looks nice.  If I am not careful, I see only what needs to be done.  The holes, the overgrowth, the weeds.  I see the future, in all its glory.  But!  It is good now, too.  It is a place that facilitates togetherness with my family, my friends and neighbors.  The pollinators are swarming.  My participation in its changing lets me feel all sorts of alive.

Maybe this note-keeping will always be a chore.  Often, the garden itself is a chore.  But I certainly prefer the real thing to the representation of it on this screen.

Friday, May 2, 2014

right now, right now

It's been sunny and hot for days; the air smells of rain to come.  I harvested a full handful of asparagus in the dark tonight as I was fishing discarded socks out of the weeds.  

These photos are from last week.  Second half of April, let's say.  I was clearing #1 to chop and plant.  It is empty now, the hoe lying in the bed, waiting to be rained on.  If the seeds were in right now, and the compost and fertilizer stirred into the warm, busy soil, I could let it soak in the spring rain for a few days and then put up the hoop.  We'd have cucumbers for days by the end of June.  

Mercifully, I didn't know I'd have a chance.  I thought we'd all be drooling in the car all afternoon, doing our obedient thing.  So when we opted out, I forgot to try to get my kids to leave me alone long enough to get something done already.  I put a quilt out on the freshly cut grass in the front yard (grass cutter of the R-W household, you know who you are) and we tumbled and cuddled and wrestled and drank honey lemonade and rolled a ball for two hours.

I have no regrets.

(if you're curious: the kale went into an amazing salad Holly makes with marinated onion and olives and little cubes of cheese and was there citrus? Help a girl out.  There was a lot of thyme in that bucket and there is still a lot in the fridge even though I put it in everything.  The spindly, floppy inflorescences I put under the broiler and they got so crispy and salty and I packed them into a jar to bring on a parknic and we ate them with sauerkraut and arugula and frittata and sausage.  You know how parsley is, it goes in everything.  Including a quite nice pasta sauce I made and eggs and stems in the freezer of course.  Just tonight I finally braised the hell out of all those collards, plus two bunches of beet tops from the market.  And the spinach you can't see went into the frittata and also some sandwiches.)


Friday, April 18, 2014


Here's a lot of iPhone photos of carrots.  They are not chronological.  We harvested carrots from, let's make a wild guess, late October through late February?  I planted Nelson Hybrids and Merida Hybrids from Territorial, and harvested all of the former (65 days on the packet) before we went to Mexico.  The latter (240 days!  That's most of a year!) we finished eating long after the sequential freezes had done their tops in but before they had started much spring regrowth.  They were all delicious, crunchy carrots the whole damn time.  I am sorry, but goooo hybrids!  I needed an easy success this summer-fall of 2013, and these puppies were it.  Double dig, throw down some fancy comes-in-a-bag harvest supreme, seed, water, thin... win.  Also the spinach that I am still harvesting.  But that's for another day.

Ta daaa.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Summer '08

When we started in this yard, I put one tomato plant in every row.  As soon as I read anything about rotation, I realized this wasn't going to work out.  I think I wanted the whole garden to be shaped like a giant yin/yang.  Or paisleys?  I wanted, basically, a food tangle.  Whatever the permaculturists say, a tangle is hard to rotate.

On the farm, Jeff loved the Eliot Coleman books, because they were all about infrastructure and measuring.  All the rows have to be exactly the same width so you can build special harvesting carts for them.  Better yet, build the rows for the carts!  And the tomato trellises and the watering systems and the hoop houses.  Everything is straight and even and functional.  That is some Jeff-style gardening.  

 Spring '09

We ended up, gradually, with a functional compromise.  Three long E/W rows with identical dimensions, for which Jeff would make a single, moveable hoop house, and inside of which I could do what I liked.  I read Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades thirty times through and got a few big messages.  One of them was definitely rotation.  My man Steve has a strong point to make about the threat of symphylans in the NW garden.  He practically insists that dangerous levels can only be avoided by rotation with grass.  Which is not for the single-lot city gardener, clearly.  (Although those first years when we were coming off of grass were amazing.  Slug-free living and tomatoes the size of a baby head.  Ah well.)  I imagined, as we committed to the three rows, that I would just slide things to the left each year.  Ah ha ha ha ha. *

Fall '09

The only reason I can keep doing this, all the time, year after year, is that things don't just slide to the left.  I struggle with guiding the tangle into rows, and I delight in helping the rows explode into tangle, but it is the dynamic tension between the two processes that keeps me interested.  I have the garden super-ego: expectations, plans, seed packets and (I just did this, seriously) even an excel graph.  I have weather underground, which I ignore completely (doh!).  And then I have the delicious, delighted, devouring id: yum yum! plant more! plant more!

Spring '10

Summer '10

I have such a small space.  I always want to grow more than I can fit.  I want to use the seed I have, because I almost never use a whole packet in a season, and yet I want to build on what I learned from the year before.  There is ever unpredictable weather, the slow or fast arrival of seasons, and the hurrying and waiting to take advantage of the golden moments for each variety, which are all a little different.  There is the history of the bed and the history of the crop - how it grew, how it was used.  There is the future of the season: when we'll be in or out of town, how much watering and attention I am willing or able to apply.  There is the now: what space is ready, what time I have, what I am excited about.  And, of course, for me, always, the aesthetic effect.  

Spring '11

Summer '11

Fall '11

I do think ahead, most of the time.  And whenever there is a hole, I fill it with whatever is close at hand that I think I will be able to harvest.  Which turns three long, dimensionally identical beds into five or ten or fifteen oddly shaped patches.  And in this way I triumph over Eliot Colman, Jeff Whitaker, and all other straight-edge suckas.  Also in this way I make regularly scheduled whole-bed rotations very challenging.

Spring '12

Summer '12

Fall '12

But challenge is what I am here for, really.  I am not on the verge of feeding my family with this space.  It is a play ground, for all of us.

What I want is to be alert.  To balance on this rolling ball of seasons and days and turn, with quick feet, to face the sun as it slips past my shoulder.  I want to brush with my fingers the compound mystery of the soil as it churns out life and death in an indivisible pile.  I want to not just see it or eat it or smell it.  I want to be part of it.


I am sitting down to do this now, with the reminiscing and the photos, because I have lost the thread of the rotation.  I got a little distracted over the winter, and spring came so quickly and I just started planting seeds.  I had a sense that row 3 needed to be in legumes.  Then there were a bunch of volunteer sunflowers in row 2, and I had a lot of sunflower seed, so I thought I'd just... and pretty soon I realized that I was planting a bunch of brassicas in the row that was brassicas last.  Which is a big no no.  Keep the brassicas moving.  Rule 1.**

Rule number 2 is Keep the Tomatoes Away from the Brassicas in Both Time and Space.  So when I got the surprise gift of a few tomato seedlings, I threw them mostly into the North beds, which god let's just not bring that space up right now.  But the biggest, nicest I put in a hole between the peas and the favas, and now those are done and what will happen with that row?

The cauliflower and sprouting broccoli in row 1, if they are not stunted by symphylans, will still be there in September.  I should stop the madness and not plant anything else cruciferous there, so no overwintering.   The sunflowers, beans, squash and anything else I can manage in the deep shade of the overgrown sunflowers, in 2 will have to come down in time for garlic and favas to go in.  So row 3 is overwintering kale, cabbages, etc.  But I planted that damn tomato there.  

The tyranny of kale!  Maybe leave the tomato, do a little greens and flowers (which seeds I have and need to spend anyway), seed the kale once the tomato is winding down, and cover row 3 (brave, brave) for the winter.  Then peas in row 1 come spring.

Yes, I think yes.  Worth trying, anyway.

*Things never happen as quickly as you would like.  You wish that a summer crop could go in behind the peas and favas.  But no.  Or that you could just get the damn garlic out of the ground in an efficient manner and fit a crop of bush beans in.  But really, in Portland, the ways in which you can get two chances in one row in one year are limited to spring (favas, peas, overwintered brassicas, greens or alliums) and fall (greens and alliums and brassicas).  If you want summer (corn, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans), then that is all you're going to get.  That and a cover crop, or a sleepy, slimy pile of leaves.

**Brassicas are the mainstay.   This is the Pacific NW, after all.  There are your spring planted brassicas and your fall planted brassicas.  You can't put the latter where the former were because that will break the rule.  But you don't want two full rows of kale.  So you - I - end up with brassicas interplanted, coming and going, with other things that have a similar time span and don't mind.  That is lettuces and other salad greens, chard, calendula, violets, nasturtiums, herbs, and sometimes bush beans.  Which is great.  But then you have two of three rows in brassicas, which out of three leaves you only one row you can plant brassicas in the next time you plant.  Fuuuuuck. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

WTF, weather?

Excuse me, I have to go water the garden.  In May.