alpine flowers at Grey Rock

Monday, December 20, 2010

Paper Poinsettias

Someone gave me a bag of this rolled paper to make some craft items and bows out of.  I found myself a bit bored watching football yesterday and started this project to decorate jars of jam I am giving away as presents. I only used red and a mossy green string of paper, but you could add pink petals or different green leaves if you wish. Unroll the paper to get some sheets to work with.  Cut petals from the red, some larger ones 5 or 6, and some smaller ones for the middles of the flowers.  Leave stems on the ends of the petals to wrap together when making the flowers.  Cut some leaves from the green and make oak leaf shapes to imitate poinsettia's leaves.  I only had 4 leaves per flower.  My flowers were small to go on the jars, but you could make some life-size ones if you wanted, might even be a little easier.  Gather the petals like a bouquet twisting together the stem ends.  Add leaves to the outside and a sheet of green to cover the whole group twisting some more to hold the whole thing together.  It is a little tricky until they seem to come together at the last minute.  I used quite a bit of gold glitter glue to make the middles and then added green glittler glue to the leaves.  For the next flower, I put the green glitter glue on before I built my flower, a good idea.  You could also accent the red petals with red glitter glue something I haven't tried yet, but the day is young! Wire together and use wire ends to attach for tree decoration, package topping, or to place in bouquet.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter garden

I have a few lettuce heads, spinach, a few carrots, and broccoli, kale, and chard left in the greenhouse, well until some animal breaks in to rob me.  So far, so good, though, as I just put the berry fencing in front of the doors and that seems to be enough to keep anyone from challenging the doors.  The tissues are weak as they have survived 20 degrees and warm days over this last weekend, but the carrots are super sweet.  I also have some parsnips, but they are still pretty small.  May have to harvest some to roast whole soon, just to give them a try.  Supposedly they turn very sweet (probaly like the carrots, huh?)after a freeze, and they have certainly had that!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Garden Catalogs

The garden catalogs are coming already!  I remember when they used to wait until after the first of January to send them out.  I can't get excited yet.  I know I want to do more fun and less drudgery next year in the garden.  I also want to put things on automatic watering set-ups to free up away time.  I will thumb through the catalogs, but only for a source for dried flowers, one of the fun things I want to grow next year. I want to grow some heirloom dried beans, too, but I will find them in one of the catalogs that hasn't made the jump to hyperspeed. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making A Pomander

I made a pomander.  I used an apple because it is so much easier to poke the cloves in than an orange.  Get cloves in the bulk spice area of a market or this could cost a fortune.I covered the whole thing, but you can make patterns that will dry together or add ribbon.  In the olden days, pomander which came from the French meaning "apple of amber" consisted of a ball of resin formed in part from ambergris from whales, civet and deer musk.  Spices were added and it made a hard ball that smelled good, we hope.  This ball was carried in a cover as a necklace to ward off infection and at least bad odors.  Later versions such as what I made were kept in linen closets to prevent moths.  I just like to have them around for a clovey holiday smell.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fall and Winter Gardening

If you haven't worn yourself out with summer gardening, you can think about planting crops for fall and winter.  I should have posted this in August as it is too late for this year, but something to think about if you are missing your supply of fresh vegetables from your garden. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, Binda Cloebrook has the Bible on the subject in her Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest.  It gives time tables for planting to have things to eat now.  Her information dates back to the beginnings of the organization, Tilth, in the early 1970's, and she has a friendly view of the subject.  Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest is the other book I know gives specific instructions on planting for fall and winter production.  The timing is the tricky part, more so than temperature.  If the days are not long enough and your spinach isn't already up and with it by mid-September, it just can't seem to muster the energy to make big leaves.  Root crops are perhaps the exception.  With their growth underground, day length is not such a factor, though cold days prevent the soil from warming enough for growth.  Makes for over-wintered dinky carrots that will grow again in spring though they may be hairy.  All in all, experimentation is always the best to figure out what grows well for you.  Cold frames, cloches, tunnels, and greenhouses break all the rules each extending the seasons a bit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Greenhouse after freeze

Amazingly enough, though growth in the greenhouse has slowed, by keeping it dry, things do continue to grow.  The flavors are weak, but better than some products offered for sale elsewhere.  Have a row on cantaloupes there in the middle that may or may not finish up.  We ate one, a combo of almost sweet melon and crunchy cucumber, juicey and interesting.  Zinnias are still glorious. Off in the distance there is the last of the Supertasty tomatoes ripening.  Carrots, beetes, parsnips, and spinach for over winter use. (Give or take a varmint.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

La Nina vs. El Nino

The Climate Prediction Center has posted an advisory for the return of La Nina.  Until the summer, we were under the influence of an El Nino effect.  These natural occurring cycles stem from ocean temperatures in the Nino 3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific from 165West to 120West.  When the waters in that area rise to .5C above the historical average, an El Nino pattern sets up.  If .5C below, La Nina. For the last month or so, the temps have cooled and thus the advisory. The dominant storm track will be from the North to Northwest and pick up some of the Polar Jet stream to make for wetter and cooler months ahead. The more the temperature in the ocean changes, the longer the effect.  NOAA will let us know as the pattern persists and the temperatures remain below average in the waters at the equator what will be in store for the Pacific Northwest area.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fall Webworm

The first time I noticed any amount of Fall Webworms was last year. This year, every madrone tree has at least one group of these on it. The Fall Webworm might be called a tent caterpillar, but it is truly Malacosoma disstria. The difference is that the webworm forms its nests at the tips of branches whereas the tent worm forms them in the crotches. They can be controlled by pruning or spraying the pathogen BT. How you are supposed to spray the tip of a branch 40 feet up is still open for discussion. There is a parasitic moth and fly that can do some damge, so I will hope my little ecosystem is produceing what it take. Although the caterpillars defoliate where they live, they seldom kill the tree. What if there were enough of them? Baltimore Orioles are hard on them, so I suppose the rest of that insect family would be. I have noticed an influx of Flickers lately...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Did you know by clicking on the green rectangle to the right you can visit garden blogs all over the world? Maybe it isn't your thing, but if you want an armchair adventure, take a look. You can visit gardens such as Garden Adventures, a guy in Florida with orchids hanging from his trees, to My Small Garden, a woman in Malaysia who has to whack out tapioca plants like I have to blackberry vines. I am proud to say I have periodically been on the "popular blogs" list and currently I am number 111, which with all those blogs is pretty impressive. Are you impressed? No worries, it is a good cheap hobby for me to provide info with this format.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weed of the Month:Pigweed

Amaranth, or Pigweed as it is more commonly referred to, has many attributes I am aware of, but seldom take advantage of. It is a good indicator that your soil is well nourished and most of its parts can be eaten. When young, the leaves are a good substitute for spinach and have all the same vitamins and minerals. As it develops its seed head, the shiny black seeds can be shaken out and ground into a meal from which a flatbread or cracker can be made which native American populations were aware of. In Africa, there are much larger varieties grown for just this purpose. For me, it is a weed that comes up where I don't really want it. Its seed heads hold the propect of millions of new weeds for next year. It is easy to spot and remove, but I know it is there if I ever need it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Storing Potatoes

Potatoes are not as fussy as some things about their storage needs. Cool, dark, and mostly dry are the main ingredients of happy storage, but a little moisture in the air doesn't seem to bother them. The temperature as long as it isn't hot or freezing seems to be OK, but between 50 and 60 would be ideal. The darkness is probably the most important as they will not know they are no longer buried as long as they don't see any light. In light, they will turn green which indicates they have a naturally occurring toxin, solanine, building up in them. This is the same with sprouting which will also happen in the presence of light. I try not to pile them up too deep in boxes, but have them in only a couple layers, easy to take a look at and remove any questionable ones that might affect the rest of the group. Most of them will keep through the winter until spring approaches and they know something else should be going on. Save the ones that are the size of small hen's eggs to replant. If you live in a temperate zone that isn't extremely wet, you can leave your potatoes in the ground under mulch and dig as needed. You only have to worry about bugs and gophers finding them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Potato Plant Is Dead

I have recently received a distress email about a dying potato plant, and so I wanted to respond in a more public fashion than just a reply to a comment. I want to let you know that potato plants at our farm are finishing up and look quite sad at this point. They have flowered which indicates potatoes, each flower cluster indicates a potato, each flower in the cluster is an eye on that potato. The stems are drying up and toppled over. The whole thing looks damaged. BUT, never fear, this just means it is time to do the most fun farm job there is, DIGGING POTATOES!!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth, DE for short, is made up of diatoms, old sea bed creatures collected from dry lakes around the Great Basin area. The fossilized creatures have very spiny bodies which when applied to plants where soft bodied insects lurk, tend to poke holes in those critters such as aphids or larval stages of bugs. This picture is a not so good DE application on hot pepper plants that the ants had farmed some aphids on. Yes, ants raise aphids so they can get the nectar the aphids suck out. Not sure exactly how it works, one of those symbiotic things. DE can be applied with a duster(mine died) or a flour sifter or even a sieve. Just don't breath the dust as those same silica particles can lodge in lung tissue forever.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pest of the Month:Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Spotted Cucumber Beetle These guys are voracious. If you see one, take care of it. If you see more than three, you best plan your attack. You can hand pick them at first or drop them into a narrow mouthed bottle with some water in it. If you can't get them all that way, you had better use Neem and spray the area where they were seen and any surrounding delights they might head to next. They are notorious for eating the insides of cucumber, squash, or melon flowers. They will eat foliage, but tender flowers are their favorites. This limits your production greatly, as no flower, no fruit. If there is an infestation and you see them flying around, use Pyganic daily, not in the heat of the day, until you don't see any. No Kidding! These guys and their pals, the Striped Cucumber Beetle are not a bug you can garden with!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Weed of the month

Mallow! It is actually a stomach tonic, but only if you need one. For me it is a deep rooted bother that turns up in anywhere I have cultivated once and not again. That is it finds a happy home around perennials, along the edges of the greenhouses, by water faucets, etc. The roots go to the center of the earth I think. It has geranium looking leaves and a sprawling nature. It knows I can't always get it out. When I chop it off, it tells me "I vill be bock" much like Arnold Schwarzenegger would say.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saving Seed

With GMO(genetically modified organisms) invading our seeds from many fronts, I found it both interesting and possibly necessary to be more proactive about saving seeds this year. I let a Red Russian Kale go to seed and from two little branches, I took enough seed for me for probably three years. I planted the "carrot forest" from seed I saved. I took volunteer tomatoes from random spots and put them in rows with my hybrids. I am reading Babara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and finding she points out much I know in a way I must reconsider my farming goals and what growing food is all about. It is certainly about doing so for myself, my family, and my friends. It is not about paying the likes of Monsanto to do so. That's my Saturday soap box for today.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Garden Blogs

If you like garden blogs, which I do of course, you might want to check out some of the ones I have listed in my wandering across the blog vastness. The latest one I added, the Last Frontier Garden is hilarious. She posted an essay about the use of plastic plants and flowers in her Alaskan neighborhood. We really don't have much of that around here, but it is sometime disturbing when you do see it. She also posts the "tarp of the month", or the misuse of those blue tarps to "cover" messes. Lots of blue whales in our neighborhood, and our yard! Blogging should be for entertainment as well as information, and this one is certainly entertaining, whereas several of the others have lots of information. The Inadvertent Farmer has quite a bit about farming with children and has a good view of the struggles of farming in eastern Washington. I could review the others, but I have to go farm now, so you look around if you are interested...

Friday, June 18, 2010

More On Leaf Miners

Here are a couple pictures to aid in the identification of leaf miners as a culprit in the garden. The spinach leaf on the left shows the underside with damage and tiny white cluster of eggs. The photo on the right shows the top side mosaic of the leaf miner worms track as he ate his way out. This spinach patch is now covered with floating row cover, the lightweight fabric designed as an insect barrier. I am Neeming weekly on baby stuff and leafy greens to prevent a multitude of bugs that will arrive soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Leaf Miners

A comment/question came in about strange rot on leaves of chard. I am going to take a stab at it being leaf miners because it is now their time to show up. They make leaf tissue into greyish almost clear area where the worms eat their way out to become flies which then go and plant eggs on other leaves and repeat. Look for white eggs in tiny clusters on the undersides of the leaves of the tender leaf crops like beets, chard, and spinach. The flies can be seen hovering over the crop during the day sometimes. Neem is a wonderful preventative, but washing the eggs off is mandatory to prevent the worms hatching and eating the leaf tissue, or pick the big leafs off, wash and have a salad. then spray with Neem for the next crop. Blue sticky traps set here and there on wood sticks will catch any flies if they are really bad. If this not your problem, tell me some more about how the rot looks, i.e. slimey, curled leaves, black, etc. and we can go for a new diagnosis.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gopher Tender

The wet weather has not been good for my head gopher tender. He works around the house getting an occasional rodent, but as far as venturing out to the garden in the rain? No, he is not that enthusiastic. He had the same attitude about having his picture taken for the blog. Thanks Miles, for putting up with your human.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Pest of the Month

Spittle Bug! The rather disgusting wad of spit on this weed is the nest of a small beige, green, or yellow insect. The foam is where it lays its eggs and protects them with the wet glob. Gross, HUH? Diatomaceous Earth works well on drying the wad of spit out and ultimately the bug and eggs. A hard shot of water will slow them down. Hand picking them out of the moist glob works, though only a true gardener may want to do this!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Question came in about how to deal with aphids. The good news is you have plenty of nitrogen in your soil, so your plants attract aphids. The bad news is, you don't want to eat the bugs. So, here are a few options for dealing with aphids... A triage for any pest that you can do first is spray cold water. Most pests hate it and it is something you can do without any special equpiment or purchase. You can wash off quite a few and slow down there success rate. There are various soaps for dealing with them such as Safer's which you use to wash them off the leaves and the soap actually melts their soft bodies. Sometimes the soap is too strong for certain plants, so you must be careful. You can use diatomaceous earth, D.E., which pokes holes in their bodies and dries them up, but also is all over your herbs you'd like to use, so not the best case scenario there, but handy for other instances. You can spray with an insecticidal oil like Neem which smothers them and prevents future inhabitants, but must be reapplied every week or so to prevent more from coming. Neem will not hurt you or beneficial bugs, but needs to be washed off before using herbs or everything will taste like Neem! You could spray with Pyganic, a pyrethrum(African Daisy) based pesticide, if you are heavily infested. Spray soil, too. This will kill EVERYBODY, spiders, bees, and other beneficials it touches, so not to be taken lightly. The most fun way to deal with aphids is with ladybugs. They are available at many garden centers or through catalogs like "Bugs Alive!" Let go of a few at a time and let them devour the soft bodied pests in your area. After they eat everything there, they move off to better feeding grounds, so wait a week and let go of some more, especially after a watering as they come out of dormancy(you keep them in the refrigerator) hungry and thristy. Hope this helps. Aphids are worst in spring and fall and not as much of a problem in hot, dry times.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Weed of the Month

Plantain! Many people work hard to keep this plant out of their lawns. I try to keep one in some corner somewhere that I know about as I use it as a drawing herb when needed. In my experience, a leaf of plantain rubbed or chewed into a poultice and applied to a bee or wasp sting can prevent swelling and subsequent reactions to the sting. The green spot of plantain should be kept on the sting site for at least 15 minutes. If you remove and heat starts to build up, reapply with a new spot. I have used this weed to remove a sliver of glass from my son's foot after digging at it with a sterilized needle and giving up. I put a poultice and a bandaid on the injury and sent him to bed. In the morning, when I took his sock off, the glass was sitting outside of his foot! I have taken leaves in our first aid kit when traveling, I put that much confidence in it. There are two varieties, English broadleaf and the narrow leaf we are more familiar with.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Trimming Tomatoes

A question came in about taking blossoms off of tomato plants as they are growing. (See comments below.) I think the theory is good in that it prevents a small, young plant from putting energy into making fruit before it has established a good root and stalk. It is kinda like raising a teenager. One important issue to address is whether you are growing indeterminate or vining tomatoes such as cherries, or determinate ones such as a patio. With determinate, bush type, you only get the blossoms pre-determined for that plant to have for that flush. If you pick too many blossom off, say after the four or fifth branching set, you are limiting your production. Determinates will make another flush if your season is long enough, though. Indeterminate types can be pruned to fit a framework or area, to limit what ripens in a northern climate, or just because you know you can't eat that many. It will not affect their production as they will just keep making blossoms out their ends.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pest of the Month

Yes, deer! They travel through this time of year on their way to summer grounds (we hope). About the time I think I am raising more venison than peas, they are gone. Well, most of them are gone. We usually have one or two does who stick around and have their babies somewhere close. Can handle that, just not the whole herd.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No raccoons!

Just a note to anyone who was concerned. The raccoons have moved. Just moving a few boards which created a wide opening into the nest they were calling home has done the trick. A few visits by the nosey landlord, and they took their leave. Straight downhill by the main creek, the neighbors have several old sheds. Hopefully their rent was prorated at their next abode.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Farm Blog Directories

I have been accpeted to a blog directory and I visited another one that operates as a farm news stand. There are some pretty interesting blogs out there and some farmers have been doing it for quite awhile and seem to be having a lot of fun. So, I will add them as links down to the right and if you have time and interest you can check them out. Moosey even has a "What plant am I?" quiz, purely unscientific, just something she and her son had fun making it appears.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I found a raccoon nest today. I saw two of them, a couple I would think. We talked to one another, well they hiss a little, and I moved some boards so they know I am not so happy about them living so close. The dog was going crazy, but don't worry, he is basically harmless. The raccoons knock things over and get into the recycle stuff. They swim in our little pond trying to catch the fish. I know they go out to the garden and mess around, but they don't bother much until there are melons and corn. I didn't want to kill them, and I couldn't tell if anyone was pregnant, but there were no babies, so I just urged them to live elsewhere or I would visiting again very soon. Pesky neighbors, dropping by all the time. We have a live trap and I could maybe move them , if I don't just trap the cat...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I can't control the weather. If I could I would call for a few sunny days in a row right now. As far ahead as the garden was, now I am right back a couple of weeks behind. I base that on what the plants are doing. Usually, we would have asparagus coming out of or ears by the middle of April. That's a funny saying and picture, too. The crops I planted outdoors are doing little to nothing and I will end up with a giant gap in production because of it. In summer, I would call for a rain about every ten days. That would be perfect, and wildfires would no longer plague our area. Meanwhile, second guessing the weather, I started the next round of spinach, lettuce, napa cabbage, etc., in 32 cell trays to transplant when the weather does want to cooperate.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Yep! Soil. If you said wallet, pocketbook, or bank account, you are very funny. If you said weary, you get the booby prize. The premise to sustainable farming is building the soil so that it will grow whatever year in and out, rather than the conventional approach which does whatever it can to get one crop for one year. That is how quick fix fertilizers and pest controls came to be leading us far away from food grown in soil which provides a full spectrum of nutrients. Looking at soil as the food web, the origins of life, gives it the importance it should have.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Here is a question for you...what is the most important thing I grow on the farm?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bird Talk

Birds are stopping by on there way south and north. Nuthatches and chicadees check every bark scale on the trunk of the oak tree at our front door. Papa purple finch looked madly red compared to the subdued colors of his mate. The male robins are thick in the field when I walk out in the morning. They tweedle at me because I have forced them to move to the trees just to be on the safe side. A peregrin, maybe a young one or one establishing this neighborhood is his, has been squawking at me from around the edge of the garden and spending time hiding in the fir trees where the camo eludes my picking his form out of the surrounding branches. Vultures have returned from the south for the summer, swooping long glides with the feathered tips at the ends of their wings looking like stiff fingers stretching out. The goldfinches with their cute bright yellow accents drive the cat crazy with all there chatter as they work on dandelions dotting the same yellow in the grass. These mornings when the weather is dry, it is down right noisey in the garden.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weed of the Month

April's weed of the month is chickweed. A friend of mine, Teri, said "a weed is a plant I just don't know yet." Chickweed is one of the first to show up in spring and can choke out small starts such as carrots. It is edible and very rich in Vitamin A, folic acid, and iron, but it also looks great in the compost pile.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tomato germination?

Wondering how those tomatoes are doing? Hopefully as good plant parents you just became prematurely nervous. I had doubts about some cucumbers I started and was beginning to plan the funeral, but lo and behold, today I see their green stems about to let the first leaves pop out of the soil. Phew!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tomato germination?

A question came in about length of time for germination. I think if you are in doubt, maybe take a peek by lifting a seed gently out of the mix and see if it has swelled, is opening, or has rotted and squishy( I hope not). If your mix is turning hard after watering maybe the addition of a little perlite ( the white chi-chi balls you see in potting mixes), a heated silica product that does little but make spaces and help hold heat in the mix, can help lighten it. If seeds are kept at a cooler place, it will take longer to germinate. That is kinda why I do the paper towel in a warm place method; it seems to help with germination success. I am pulling for your seeds. Let me know and we can think about what is happening (or happened) some more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Will the weather bring any substantial rain? Folks are getting nervous. Klamath Basin declared a drought emergency. Think mulch, lots of mulch to hold waterings from evaporating. Helps with weeds, also. Haven't done enough around here. Maybe that will be a goal for this year.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I received my first question about onion transplants! That's what I'm talking about. Hope more are coming as the garden season picks up. I realize not everybody is as garden crazy as I am!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Please use this site for any questions you might have off of the Diary of a Northwest Gardener blog. You may give information also. It can be anything related to the subject that might help folks have an easier time with their agricultural efforts. I am an organic farmer, so my answers will come from that slant.