Friday, April 15, 2011

Harvest Time Already—Well, I’m Thinking About It

Here we are in spring.I have tomatoes and peppers seeded up and sprouting in the greenhouse, snow peas in the ground, need to get lettuce, chard, and other cole crops outside.
I guess this all started with a friend asking me why I am growing 27-28 varieties of tomatoes? What are you going to do with all of them?
What am I going to do with all of them?
First off I am going to treat things naturally, try my best to not use inorganics or harsh chemicals. This started my mind rolling and a conversation with Annie Haven. Annie is known for her Moo Poo tea and her Haven Brand Products— and how she raises her manure producers. I am comfortable with a no GMO, grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free cow/steerer making manure I am going to put on something that I will ingest.

My goal is to use the tea while the plants are still juvenile and growing in the greenhouse, then when before I plant them out into the garden I am going to ‘dunk’ them for a little boost, and then I will manure around the plant itself. Simple, sustainable, and where I live it might make a dent in the pile of horse manure. Eighty horses do create one large pile over a year or five.

Back to what am I going to do with all these fruits and vegetables? Eat them of course! But a growing season is too limited and I will be growing more than I can eat so I set a goal for myself this year tha I will learn to can. I know how to freeze things. I could dry them. But canning I have never done. I have watched friends of mine put away Peaches, tomatoes, and pickles, but I have never done it myself.

This basic kit is great for waterbath canning and is a great start to your food preservation future.

Already I am collecting jars. I hit junk shops, and garage sales. I have some great older jars that say Presto, Kerr (which I have even been to the Kerr Mansion in Portland, OR) and I know what Mason jars are. I know I should buy wide mouth jars…but ten, half-gallon size jars for one dollar that are old are cool! Small mouth I will live with.

Alright so the exploration is tomatoes and pickles. What can I do with tomatoes besides just can them? Come on now, I am a tad creative at least.

I am growing peppers both sweet and hot. Salsa is tomatoes and peppers, some cilantro, lemon juice, a bit of vinegar. Salsa.

But what about beyond salsa? Marinara, canned tomatoes, bruschetta, soup base, vinegar sauce, tomato jam. YES, that is correct, I said it. Sweet tomato jam made of golden tomatoes. I can do red, green and purple as well. tomato juice…or bloody mary mix?

Well, if I can make jam from tomatoes I can certainly do that with sweet peppers. I can also pickle the peppers. Peter piper did it, a whole peck.

Pickles, pickling, pickled. Cucumbers are synonymous with the word pickles. Sweet peppers, carrots, onions, garlic scapes, green beans. I could do these. I can! I can do then blood brilliantly. I am also going to try my hand at pickled squash. I know it is not something we are not really familiar with, but whats to say it can’t be grand?

Let us do a quick recap—Canned tomatoes, pickles, salsa, garlic scapes, pickle green beans, pickled onions, onion relish, relish, tomato chutney, bruschetta, marinara, hot vinegar sauce/hot sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato jam, squash pickles, pickled peppers, pickled carrots, tomato soup base, squash soup base, beets, garlic jam, pepper jam, and more ideas than I can shake a stick at.

Buy The seals are meant to be used once and you can never be too safe with food.

Now the great thing about canning is you clean out the jar and reuse it. The sealed lids are what you should buy new every year. With enough preparation one can have everything in place for when that day of days comes and produce is hauled by the box out of the garden! Talk about anticipation, I am so looking forward to this. Explore your best options, and choose those that suit your needs.

It’s early in the season and I do realize this is a strange time to talk about it, but I am doing my best to stay ahead of things and not get sideswiped.

Preservation and people in the know—I am so glad that people like Theresa Loe and Daniel Gasteiger are on the internet sharing what they have learned. My friend Bren is going to delve more into preservation as well, so will also learn together. Don’t forget Daniel has a great new book out Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It Too and Theresa is a trained Master Food Preserver and Associate Producer of Growing a Greener World.

So if you are nice, and not so naughty this year you may receive a basket of choice items for the holidays. Fresh from this years garden, preserved carefully with caring, and given with love.


If you are canning your own food for the first time you can contact your county extension office and they may have some suggestion, be organizing a class, or have a Master Food Preserver class starting up. You can also talk to people at your local farmers market and they too might be organizing a demonstration or class that you can sign up for. Happy canning!

Monday, March 14, 2011

From Little Seeds Come Great Expectations

It has been said that big things come in little packages. This being said, truly seeds are such packages.
I admittedly am a hortiholic. I have plant lust, can have a plantgasm, and truly am excited to get a new plant in my grubby, dirty, little, fat fingered hand. I am a plant slut!

This year I am committing myself ...oh committing myself to two things. One is to work on display areas at my small plant nursery. The other is to grow a productive home garden so I can preserve and give away as much as I truly want. You thought I should be committed?

Allow me to talk a bit about some small flowers that I have recently become intrigued, or re intrigued by. Three plants, Limnanthes, Nemophila, and Neirembergia.

Limnanthes douglasii or Poached Egg Plant is one of those flowers you would like to grow, but you never really see it around. Annie Annuals offers it, but I need flats of it for my displays. It can grow in poor draining soils, clay, and take a fair amount of heat. I have ample water, clay-like soil and lots of heat. That glare and gleam get going. Talk about a good plant to catch the eye. Wikpedia states "It attracts hoverflies to the garden to beat the aphids and is well loved by bees."

Nemophila menziesii 'Pennie Black' & Nemophila menziesii var. atomaria 'Snowstorm' are from native California, the California Baha and can be found into Southern Oregon. It is considered an herb by the reading I have done.  'Pennie Black' is the opposite of Poached Egg in the the way it recessed instead of jumps forward. Its dark purple-black center quivering in the breeze just makes my heart palpitate. Snow storm is the gleamer. Glistening with its radiant purple markings. There are several varieties of Nemophila, but I am trying to just grow the showier ones.
Nemophila maculata 'Five Spot' & Nemophila maculate 'Baby Blue Eyes' are herbaceous, herb-like plants endemic to California. The wonderful potted markings are to attract bees. The female bee collects the pollen where both male and female bee eat o the nectar.
Yes, I do think about bees and am seriously thinking about having a couple of hives out on the property. I also think about the native Mason bee. And am concerned about all these bee populations dying off suddenly. Nemophila seems to be a good source of food as well as pollen and what more could hope for besides the beauty of this great little plant good for both borders and containers.

Used with kind permission of Harris Seeds
Nierembergia 'White Robe' is a nice front of the border plant as well. It would be happy in a rockery or a container, maybe even a hanging basket.
Cupflower, as it commonly known by, is a member of the nightshade family. That usually mean toxic, but also lets me know it will tolerate high heat.
Grow Nierembergia as annuals in USDA zones 3 to 6 and as perennials in zones 7 to 10.
There are purple shades of this darling little flower.
I am staying true with a more white base theme, yellow highlights, smoky black-purples tones. I like unexpected combinations so I am really trying to think about what I personally will mix these flowers with.
I do know I will use them in containers. 'Penny Black' would be a natural with anything lime colored. Limnanthes could go will with shocking pinks, black foliage. Cupflower being white is a natural mixing plant, looking good with blues, limes, blacks, oranges, purples. Too many combinations at times.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Information Society—What’s On Your Mind?

"I want to know what you're thinking" is the riff we all remember from the song—that and the Leonard Nemoy sample.

This posting isn't about that 80's band at all. It's about the society we live in. We live in the information society.

I was just told by a friend, that some people I respect have recently made comments about bloggers, those on twitter, and people on facebook. It was directed toward the garden community, or I should say the garden social network community.

The gist of the comments was about gardeners who blog are misinformed and misinformants. The implication was that those blogging are putting personal experience out as fact that is really opinion. These tribal elders expressed knowledge shared on social networking sites was unreliable at best and just a din of words. Theses elders went on to say that those blogging about gardening should be citing at least three credible sources for each nuggets of information they impart. All this to put something out into the interverse that is more of an opinion than a cited piece of published work?

I am a gardener. Let me restate that: I have a strong passion in horticulture and enjoy growing everything that I can get my hands on. I have a passion. Or is it I have the passion?

I love to exchange information. I love art, music, seed planting, propagation, selling plants, Victorian homes, cocktails, cooking, growing food, collecting, movies, and good times with friends. Oh, I also forgot I hope for world peace and enjoy riding rollercoasters—just kidding on the last two. I love to exchanging information with other people.

Almost all of us are passionate about one thing or another. If we are on twitter we tweet. On facebook we post. We are looking for those who share our ideas and opinions. We join groups and look for those of like mind. We share, we pontificate, we let others know that we killed that frickin' plant 3 times and yes, oh lord yes, we are going to buy yet another plant to kill!

Back to the center ring of my circus.

I do not see these tribal elders as sitting high upon mount Hortensis, listening to tracks from the latest performance of Chorus of the Goddess Flora and Deadheading Society. I do not see them as noted scholars that dole out dew drops of wisdom from their sanctuaried towers. These demigods are not allowing the seed of sharing to take hold and root deep within the rich loam, that is not their style.

These misguided and misinformed scholars are people who have not thoroughly explored social networking. Yes, they are on facebook. One of them does not know how to add a profile picture. The group as a whole does not post much, if at all.

Let's call this group the old guard. They have rather outdated concepts. Maybe they believe that garden information only comes from books, gleaned from academia, or belonging to an organization? Maybe you have to read about it in that why Horticulture magazine is waning? Is that why publishers aren't making deals with noted professionals within the garden community? I hear a few bloggers have some book deals in the making at reputable publishing houses.

What I can't believe is that gardeners attending the lecture actually sat there in the audience and let the tribal elders disparage what is the new movement for the flow of information? My friend commented the talk would have been better with a glass of wine. Does that tell you something? The panel of speakers should have had more than just a glass of wine. Maybe they would have relaxed and sounded less threatened by a world they know not.

I am not going to name names. What I am going to say is that the people on the panel made themselves look outdated. They appeared to have a narrow and limited view of the garden world, and the people who make up this global garden community.

I feel more liberated being part of a social network. I am not judged because I am not wearing the correct outfit or using the $100 pair of garden pruners. I do not feel excluded. Most of us don't.

I commented to my friend who enlightened me about this event. "This is truly amazing, I have probably passed you a few times as you have worked at this nursery or that. I am a type of shopper that likes to left alone and I will ask if I need help. But because of facebook, and learning more what is going on in your mind, what you groove on by what you post in word or picture." I have learned volumes about my friend. I have gone plant shopping with her, I cheer her on. We have discovered we share opinions on things. Something I would have never discovered if not for social networking.

Let me break this down.

Twitter to me is like a stream of consciousness, 17 layers of conversation with links to blog posting, articles, ideas, pictures and more.

Facebook is a tad slower, but you can say more. It isn't static like my website, just slower. There is improvement with groups now. I am connecting with micro communities and special interest groups.

Both social networks are multilayered and have strong undercurrents. Both are global.

I feel great that I am there to say hello to someone in England one second, a friend in the Eastern United States the next and read a posting by another person in Australia, France, or Japan. Could you do this 5 years ago? 10 years ago?

I have a strong feeling that the people on the panel will not read my blog. They don't really blog. They will not see this as I post a link onto twitter waiting for individuals such as @Mr.BrownThumb, @DirtandMartinis, @Arcadia1, @oregonclematis, @GreenSoil, @BG_garden to respond or retweet the link.

The tribal elders need to change with times. Gardeners are going forward into the bloggisphere. This is not about academia but about conversation. It's about swapping stories over the virtual fencepost.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tomatoes—Fried, Green, or Otherwise

I have to admit I am having trouble picking tomatoes. No, not the fruit, but the seed. Which tomatoes shall I grow? I am not only growing for myself, but for other people to buy tomato starts.

I have been researching flavor, how many days till fruit bearing, acidity vs. non-acidic. Heirlooms vs. contemporary. Its just so mind boggling and the next thing I know I am wanting to order forty or more varieties of the summer flavor favorites. I lied, I just checked my shopping cart at one source and I have 62 varieties in my shopping cart. OMG! I need to choose wisely. I need to get all the lists down to 40 or less.

So I am breaking it down to this. I need to order at least 3 varieties that most people will grow. I need to order the seed in bulk. Beefsteak, Brandywine, Roma. People want fresh eating tomatoes, but they want something for sandwiches and salads. Folks also want a tomato they can sauce.

Canning tomatoes are another story—I have a few of those too. I am going to use Jersey Giant myself.

The varieties are endless, and sources are varied. I am trying to find more organically grown seeds than just commercial seeds.

Heirlooms are fashionable, but I don't think they are trend. I think because of the foodie society we are becoming, or at least those reading this posting are becoming, that we look at food as artistic, something to savor, and something we enjoy. I think with all the GMO information going around a lot more people are going to be trying their darnedest to save heirlooms or save their heirloom seeds. Its about quality of life sometimes, something corporate America understands little about.
I know during the summer one thing I truly enjoy is bruschetta. I use several types of tomatoes, I like colorful. I always try to have more than enough basil in the garden and am a fan of using white vinegar. I don't like to darken the color of the tomatoes. I could eat this for dinner almost every night during the summer—it's something I get drunk on. With a nice glass of wine and a few friends it can make quite a spontaneous dinner party. Ananas Noir, Gold Medal, Pink Acordian, Black Krim and Ingegnoli Gigante Liscio will be wonderful additions to bruschetta making. Ready for summer flavor now!

Salads I am thinking small tomatoes, ox hearts, cherries, small plums. Placero, Red Fig, Gold Pear, Plum Lemon and Black Cherry.

Think of the colors and the tastes. That's where I am really going.

Roasting tomatoes or drying them with rosemary, olive oil and a touch of sea salt. Flavor, flavor flavor.

So choice—guess I better stay to topic. I am having choice problems because I having to many choices offered to me. THAT is a good thing.

Some other great  tomato offerings are—Balck From Tula, Amish Paste,Green Sausage, Japanese Trifele Black, Striped Cavern, Ukrainian Purple, Kellogg's Breakfast, Dr. Wyches Yellow, Black Sea Man,Tasty Evergreen, and Great White. Funny how a picture can influence you or reading another persons blog or article.

I guess I have developed my list in this blog, or cut it down to size. It's truly interesting how one comes to a decision. I am needing to start these in the greenhouse this coming month. I would recommend when you transplant your starts to use a manure tea such as
This manure tea is from organic, grass fed beef raised on native grass pastures. This is also an independent cottage industry that is worth supporting.

So in conclusion, I would say choose what you like. Think about how a tomato is going to taste or how you are going to use it. Use your garden space wisely and support farmers markets if you don't have the space to grow what you need.


Acknoledgements— I would like to thank Benda Haas of BGgarden and Annie Haven of Manure Tea for their contributions to this posting. Brenda was kind enough to send me some fantastic pictures and Annie allowed me to use her link as well as sending me the scanned document of her Family's historical seed company. GOSH! Just look at the varieties listed for the 1916 season!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"The New Victorian"—Please allow me to introduce myself

I admit it, I am affected. My style at its best pays homage to the Victorian and Edwardian influences around me. I gravitate. I was born 100 years too late. It is sad, but very true, and for some of my friends it is the same story.

In current magazines I read about the "New Victorian", "Victorian Style", even a style where "Marie Antoinette meets Out of Africa". I am boggled by what these magazines are trying to tell the public. Yes, the term Steampunk arises, but so does Gothic. GOTHIC? Steampunk, at least, references a world of steam power. How does Gothic fall into this style? Victoriana had Gothic influences—maybe, but Gothic as the defining the era? Never. I think these writers have seen one too many Harry Potter film, and decided Serious Black's family home is the epitome of a Victorian-Gothic fusion. Black was a popular color during the period, granted, but to define it only as Gothic? I think not. Have these writers studied design history at all? How does a television set become Victorian?

I myself am a student of art history and design. I am avid reader and make notes on notes in books and on post-its that hang from pages. Televisions are not Victorian by the way.

Movies such as Sherlock Homes (the nice new one with Robert Downey, Jr.—I hear a sequel is in the works), The Young Victoria (hint hint), Howard's End, A Room with a View (Edwardian), and Age of Innocence inspire by their beauty and attention to detail. Merchant Ivory Productions are great for those who are gaga about details—and look at the era. They have adapted authors or stories from the period. The Victorian era was when???? That's right, during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Now honestly, I have more of a Steampunk/Victorian aesthetic myself. I like the ideas that H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and others wrote about in their world of the future. Even Mary Shelley had some ideas. I am tossed between homage and reinvention—this is a typically Victorian attribute. I am a gardener; I enjoy antiques and object d'art; preparing fine meal and presenting it. Paintings, rugs, books and many lamps are displayed throughout. I like things that recall a bygone era, but I also enjoy functionality. In trying to replicate an era I may sometimes mimic it. I like using the feel of it and translating that into small projects and the design of my home—or rather the redesign of my home. I like indulgences such as the Opium Den, Neoclassicism, romantic motifs of the rococo style, the age of Empire, and the eye of the intrepid Victorian global traveler.

Victorian style is about acquisition, about being au courant (be the first in your county to own a Cattleya orchid!), about bringing the world into your home—be it through art, books, evocative objects, plants, and souvenirs. Gardeners understand about acquisition. The Victorians were just more skilled at the presentation of it.

Victorians loved natural things. They worshipped nature. They collected it. Plants—ferns, tropicals, flowers—the plant explorer's next Wardian caseful of treasures. Wall papers from the era can look more like a lepidopterist's text book than something that might grace the walls of a home. And when it came to decorating, they wanted the interiors to reflect this affinity for nature as well. Homes were decorated in natural shades and hues. A variety of greens from deep forest to moss and lichen. Browns were used, a wide variety of them. Rusty reds, sienna, and earthy ochre were standards. Reds that were bright were often used. Yes, there was the frill and the high compliment colors. Draperies of olive and pink, lilac and mustard with hints of baby blue. And trim, if you couldn't afford fancy hardwoods you painted them to either mimic woodgrain texture or color —mahogany was the rage. Let us also keep in mind while I describe these colors, the lighting in homes was much different—gas, oil lamp, maybe a bare bulb with an amber filament. It was the fashion and meant to look good. We often look back at other eras and wonder what designers were thinking, but in the Victorian age one surrounded oneself with the things one loved most, and designed rooms to make collections look their best.

Now how do we, as a consumer-based culture, reflect this new "Victorian Style'"? Are we being guided by someone who lives is an apartment and has a friend with a begonia in the kitchen window? That writer writes about what they see, what they assume quickly, without research. Has this new mania for old Victorian been a long time coming, but has important, useful information been left in some editor's trashcan, in favor of printing articles that read like ads? As far as I know the Victorian Style never left. I grew up in a house where my mother would paint or refinish her finds—mainly Grand Rapids oak pieces; they were all over our home. Old lamps, taxidermy from my father's college hunting exploits, arrangements, house plants, walls covered in old plates, a hall lined in hand tinted photos, bird cages, spittoons, antique flat irons, oriental rugs, knickknacks, baskets, fossils, and other details too numerous to mention. My mother had the Victorian Style down even with her big hair, Oleg Cassini outfits, and Pucci print scarfs. I have my own interpretation—maybe it is lighter, maybe more romantic, maybe I like too much? That is the Victorian way.