Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tomatoes and Eggplants

We started our tomato and eggplant seeds today. Christina and Rhianna started 72 tomatoes and 16 eggplants, of the following varieties:


Applegreen: An early, light-green eggplant. Good yield, very tender and delicious. Smooth oval-round fruit growing on small plants.

Black Champion: Standard old type; large black fruit of excellent quality is very tasty but is lower yielding and much later than many types and needs a long season.

Brazilian Oval Orange: Very tall, erect plants with dark green foliage which provides good cover. Small oval fruits are shiny bright green, ripen through orange to bright red at full maturity. Delicious in anipastos, grilled, or fried.

Casper: Medium size, very attractive, smooth ivory-white fruit, that have a very mild mushroom-like flavor. Prolific plant. Fruit ripens early. An excellent variety for specialty growers and gardeners.

Round Mauve: Round, 4" fruit are lovely, deep, mauve color; purple calyx. Plants are compact and have purple stems. Produces early.


Brandywine: The most popular heirloom vegetable! A favorite of many gardeners, large fruit with superb flavor. Beautiful pink fruit up to 1-1/2 lbs. each!

Cherokee Purple: An old Cherokee Indian heirloom, pre-1890 variety; beautiful, deep, dusky purple-pink color, superb sweet flavor, and very large-sized fruit.

Roma: A quality paste variety, very thick flesh. A popular old favorite, good yields.

Rutgers: Good for canning, also excellent fresh; large red 8-oz. globes. Good yields and flavor, large vines.

Striped Roman: Stunning and unique. These long, pointed red fruit have wavy orange stripes!

Seattle Best of All: A mild tasting tomato that is a good all purpose, medium sized red. The vines are high yielding, and the plant has good foliage.

Sub-Arctic Plenty: One of the very earliest tomatoes, the compact plants produce lots of 2-oz. red fruit. One of the best for cool conditions and will set fruit in lower temperatures than most.

Riesentrabue: An old German heirloom with sweet, red 1-oz. fruit growing in large clusters. This is likely the most popular small tomato with seed collectors, as many favor the rich, full tomato flavor that is missing in today's cherry tomatoes. Large plants produce massive yields.

Golden Sunray: Uniform, golden-orange globes are so smooth and uniform with the rich, full tomato flavor missing in modern varieties. Productive vines yield lots of sweet and tangy 8-10 oz. fruit that excel at markets.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Planting with Beth, our new intern

Our intern, Beth, came over this week to help prepare some beds for Spring plantings. We started with two new beds of 50 Ozark Beauty strawberries. They are an everbearer strawberry and will produce a small crop all Summer long. I've never tried this variety and am looking forward to growing them. She planted two rows of strawberries with two alternating rows of garlic and onion which are good companion plants for strawberries because they repel insect pests, including aphids, weevils, spiders and nematodes, that tend to destroy strawberries.

Next, we worked on other strawberry beds. I started five beds of June bearers last year with runners from other plants. Unfortunately, new runners and unpicked weeds made the beds look horrible (see below photo), so we decided to pull the runners, amend the soil, and replant the entire bed.

Like the Ozark Beauty strawberry beds, these were also planted with alternating rows of garlic and onions. Georgia (our friendly cat) kept Beth company while she planted.

The garlic varieties we planted along with their descriptions are listed below:

German Extra Hardy: Very winter-hardy. Large cloves with a purplish blush, 6-8 per bulb, having when raw a strong flavor, which mellows when cooked. Easy to prepare and stores well.

Sussanville: Considered an improved selection of California Early. This popular softneck is white-skinned with some occasional pink. It's also one of the best varieties for roasting. The generous-sized cloves slip apart easily after roasting and spread effortlessly on French bread or tomato slices. The mild but true garlic flavor is a hit with all garlic fans. Good for braiding and stores for 6-9 months.

Elephant: Individual cloves of elephant garlic grow to produce large bulbs weighing 1/2 lb. or more. This garlic is more closely related to leeks, and the flavor is mild and sweet. Serve alone as a steamed vegetable with butter and bread crumbs, or bake it in the oven. Yield by weight is 8 to 1 under good conditions.

Our intern, Beth, also planted 1 lb. of red onion sets and 2 lbs. of yellow onion sets that I bought at our local feed store.

Next, she moved on to 4 beds where I attempted to overwinter some vegetables from the fall. Overwintering is supposed to give the vegetables a jump start in the Spring. In October, I planted leeks, swiss chard, lettuce, and cabbage. Then, I covered them with straw and row covers in November.

When most of the snow melted in March, I built low tunnel hoops over them to give them an additional jump start on Spring. I was pleased with some of the vegetables, such as the leeks (see above photo). It's hard to believe these beautiful leeks were quietly growing so large underneath all that snow.

The cabbage, lettuce, and swiss chard, however, didn't appear to be any larger or better than if I had started the same plants in the Spring. I don't think it was worth the effort to try overwintering these particular vegetables in this way. (Oh well, live and learn.) Since there was room for a third row in the middle of these beds, Beth planted beets, snap peas, and kohlrabi seeds. Kohlrabi, which has the taste and texture of broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter. It can be eaten raw or cooked and is high in dietary fiber and minerals such as selenium, folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and copper. Kholrabi is a new vegetable for me this year, and I am very excited about trying it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Signs of Life

With the warmer weather this past week, I've seen signs of life on our farm.

Nine 'Victoria Rhubarb' plants that I started from seed last year are returning!

Our new raspberry bushes are living and beginning to sprout new leaves. The blueberry bushes are also looking good and it looks like we might have our first great harvest from them.

Daffodils are beginning to bloom.

Day lilies, daffodils and tulips are peaking through the mulch. Jorene planted over 400 tulips last fall and they are popping up everywhere!

And new chicks have arrived on the farm! Liam and I picked up 10 Dominique / Barred Rock chicks this morning from a neighboring farm. She has a 600 egg incubator and it was filled with eggs. They were nice enough to show Liam a baby chick hatching from an egg.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Starting Peppers

Liam helped me start our pepper seeds tonight. He is going to be a gardener, I just know it. He loves to help in the gardens and has taken over the watering of our seedlings each day. He did a very good job putting the tiny pepper seeds into the the individual cells. His little fingers are probably more adept at it than mine.

These are the peppers we are growing, all from Baker Creek and open-pollinated, non-GMO.

California Wonder: An excellent green bell pepper of nice size and very good yield; a popular old-time variety.

Golden California Wonder: Colorful golden bells that are very sweet and tasty. Gold peppers are superb for fresh eating, great for kitchen or market gardens.

Golden Marconi: A late Italian pepper with beautiful, big, yellow, 7-inch tapering fruit that are very sweet and great for frying or fresh. This wonderful heirloom is delicious and mild.

Lipstick: A delicious pepper with 4-inch long tapered, pimiento
type fruit that are super sweet. This fine pepper is early and ripens well in the north. A flavorful favorite with thick, red flesh.

Purple Beauty: Purple peppers are always a favorite, as they are so colorful. This variety produces loads of beautiful bells on compact, bushy plants. Crisp texture and mild, sweet flavor makes this one popular with everyone.

Black Hungarian:
Unique, black-colored fruit that are the shape of a Jalapeno. They are mildly hot and have a delicious flavor. The tall plants have beautiful purple flowers that make this variety very ornamental. Rare and colorful!

Cayenne Long Thin: Slender, long peppers turn bright-red and are very hot. The 2-feet tall plants are vigorous and productive. This heirloom has been popular many years for drying, using as a spice, and also using medicinally.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Liam's Playhouse, Part 2

Mac came over today to help finish Liam's playhouse. Liam was feeling a little better, so we let him outside for a short time to assist and check out his new playhouse. Unfortunately, Ken was still sick, so he was in bed most of the day trying to recuperate.

Below is a photo of the playhouse when we started this morning. On Thursday, the guys finished the main support beams and the entire second story floor; they also finished off the side "walls" and railing of the second story. They decided to leave 5" spaces between the 1 by 6s on the second story so that parents can sit on our front deck and still see their children while they are in the playhouse.

Ken came out for a little bit, and Liam was very excited about helping him hammer nails into the 1 by 6s.

Today, Mac surrounded the entire first floor with 1 by 6s. Liam was excited to see the walls go up.

Below is a photo of the playhouse at the end of the day. We still need to put the roof on, finish off the back wall, add stone facade to the front and sides, and stain it a redwood color to match the lodge. It will probably be another full day of work, but we are definitely enjoying the opportunity to see the fruits of our labor.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A House for Liam

Today, we started construction on Liam's new playhouse. Actually, I dug holes last week to set the posts. Today, though, was the first day of cutting lumber and pounding nails. It is going to be two stories and modeled after the lodge.

My friend Mac and I picked up some lumber from a local saw mill for the construction. This was from a Spruce tree cut down on our farm 3 years ago.

This is the basic outline of the playhouse, with the posts set in concrete. The double swing is going to come down and be hung on the other end of the swing set.

This is Mac and Beth, our intern, nailing the support beams.

Here is the substructure, all done. On the side will be a 36". The opposite side will be the same.

The front will have an open doorway. The 2 x 6 beams along the top will support the observation deck. The siding will be stained redwood to match the lodge.

Tomorrow, we are planing the deck boards and preparing them to be installed. Liam is very excited about his new house and talks about it every morning.