Copyright © Sheryl Williams - Yardfanatic 2016. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Frozen Food Aisles

No need to go to the grocery store this week to stock up on frozen food. I've got it right here in the yard. We've had snowfall and freezing rain all week here in Oregon. It's pretty but not particularly fun - especially when I can't just run out and harvest something to eat!

From Yard

Luckily I got off the couch a few weeks back and gathered leaves from all the neighbors. The city of Springfield does a fall leaf collection drive. All they ask is that you bag your leaves and place them on the curb. This is perfect for someone like me. I just drive around and throw the bags in the truck. My neighbors have me even more spoiled. They just leave their bags in my yard. I also rake leaves out of the street and use the wheel barrow to disperse them in strategic locations.

This has really paid off this week. My plant roots are snug in their leafy beds. I use the pear, cherry, ash, and plum leaves from my neighbors in the actual raised beds. These leaves are small and break down really fast. I throw some grass clippings on top of them to keep them from blowing away. Next spring they will be rotted enough to just turn into the soil.

I've even been a bit surprised at how well some of my plants have fared during this cold snap. Even the arugula is still edible.

Of course, I have to be able to get outside to harvest. I have learned this week that I probably shouldn't be wearing flip flops while I'm out there. However, I figure that if my vegetables can weather this storm, so can my toes!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Seed Seeker

Yes, I spend way too much time looking at seed catalogs. I don't know why I do it, I seem to always end up at the seed rack at Jerry's or Fred Meyer to grab whatever catches my fancy on April 10. But this year I'm determined to plan better. I've got a greenhouse to play with!

The good news for me is that it is pitch black outside, it's pledge week on PBS, and I just finished a terrible book. That's right, I'm a little restless.

One of my favorite seed sources (they have a rack at Jerry's) is Territorial Seeds in Cottage Grove. They have a store there too. They are the nicest people and always very helpful when I stop in on my way to or from Medford. I've had great luck with their seeds. They test everything right here locally so you know it's going to grow here in the Willamette Valley.

Here's what's on the list so far:
  • Tomatoes (The first three are Jenny McFarland's recommendations. The girl knows how to grow tomatoes, I tell you) Glacier, Sun Gold, Taxi, and my favorite, Roma.

  • I'm also going to plant Celeriac. I had some in the yard when I first moved in but I ate it all before it went to seed.

  • Ed is a Radish fiend. I've planted a couple of different types, but he liked the Altaglobe the best. Unfortunately, I don't see it in the catalog. He didn't really like the Cherry Belle, so I think I am going to try the French Breakfast. They aren't round so it will rock Ed's world - but hey, they are better than store-bought.

  • Lemon Cucumbers. I just love these. I eat them like apples and they rarely make it into the house.

  • I'm also going to try Mexican Sour Gherkins in a hanging basket. They sound fun and I like to try new things.

  • I also need some onion sets. This year I'm going to try Copras. I plant these close together and thin them for Ed's salads. Breath mint?

  • Oregon Sugar Pod peas. I challenge you to find a more perfect vegetable. I love these...and so do my coworkers. I like to plant the peas and beans together. The peas finish up right when the bean plants are ready to take off.

Here are the leftover seeds from this year that will receive a command performance:

  • Nickel Bush Beans. I got these last year from Territorial but don't see them in the catalog right now. These are the BEST BEANS. Very tasty. They are a slender bean and are perfect fresh or in stir fry. Snatch these up if you see them anywhere else.

  • Kandy Korn Hybrid. Not a big producer, but the stalks and leaves have maroon streaks and the silk is pink. I planted them in the front yard and they were beautiful. The ears were delicious. They are packed with sugar so you want to eat them as soon as they are picked. They get gummy in your mouth if they are more than a few hours old. I would pick these, flick off the earworm, yank out the silk, then pop them on the grill (husk and all.) And hey, if a few aphids got singed, all the better.

  • Flying Saucer Patty Pan summer squash. Alas, I planted these in a corner and forgot to weed and water them.

  • Italienischer Loose-Leaf lettuce. I meant to plant these last fall but ran out of room because my spring lettuce just kept on producing all through summer. I just couldn't bring myself to pull them up while we were still snacking.

  • Swiss Chard Bright Lights. I already have this growing but we keep eating it to the nubbins. I've got another bed prepared so I can grow more. This is a beautiful plant in the landscape. The colors hold up pretty well during cooking too.

  • Filderkraut cabbage.
    From Yard
    What a cool plant! The slugs ate all but one plant this fall, but I am determined to grow more.

  • Broccoli blend. I planted this last fall and we are eating through it now. A fun variety of different types of broccoli - all very tasty.

  • French Nicoise salad greens. Oh, my, god. Fabulous. I pulled up the wild onions (hey, I live in Springfield, I've got them growing EVERYWHERE.) If you like your food to slap you around, this mix will do it. I pair this with arugula (which I am ordering) for an eye-watering sinus-clearing good time. I also grew their Tangy Mesclun and it was great. I still have joi choi growing in the bed. I harvest a couple of leaves now and then to throw into the stir fry.

Dang, I'm going to need to buy property. Wait, I already did that. Too bad it's in Alaska. Looks like I'm going to have to rip out more flower beds.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Greenhouse and Chicken Coop?

My cousin Bruce bought property in Veneta that had a greenhouse on it. It was 32 feet long and about 8 feet wide and he didn't want it. Ta Da! He begged me for years to come take it away. I have had greenhouses before and know how much work they are. I eventually gave in once I had most of my other yard projects well on their way.

It is manufactured by Addco Greenhouses. It's a great design, really. The frame is 1" square aluminum tubing. The ribs and the shelves all tie in together in a very clever way. The company comes to your house and erects it. They use crimping tools to put it all together. I soon discovered that an Addco Greenhouse is not meant to be disassembled. I had to cut all the joints in order to haul it away. It took me several days to take it apart and sort everything.
I cleared a place in the yard and dug out a trench. Ed helped me haul several pickup loads of gravel to fill the trench.

My idea is to use it as a giant cold frame. I have no intention of heating or cooling it other than to cycle regular air through it. I plan on getting solar powered arms to open the louvers when the temperature gets to high. There is a small fan that is supposed to attach to a convection tube (which I have to replace) that I want to run from a solar panel. In the summer when it is really hot I am going to throw a dark-out cloth over it and use it to dry my herbs.

I also want to use it as a chicken coop. I rescued a set of nest boxes from the ranch in anticipation of having girls around the house. I haven't quite figured it out yet but I am close. I think it has possibilities. Don't you?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The November 2008 issue of Sunset magazine had some great recipes that tied in perfectly with what is growing in the garden.

One of the more interesting ideas was cooking a whole turkey on the barbecue grill. We have done this twice now and it has turned out great. It also frees up the oven and gets Ed out of the house. The turkey cooks at a constant 350 degrees so some degree of supervision is required.

This particular recipe requires a juniper berry and sage rub. I also basted it with olive oil and fresh sage. The trick to the whole thing is to keep a pan of water underneath the grill. This catches the drips and reduces flare-ups. The bird comes out moist and smokey.

I also made stuffing with kale and used parsnips in the turkey stock. I planted my parsnips in my concrete block planter this year, thinking that it would be perfect for the deep rooted plants. They grew fine, but digging them out has been a challenge. There isn't a lot of room between the blocks to get my hand around the root. I end up doing a lot of excavating but have been able to pull them out.

From Thanksgiving

Dinner was fabulous and then I found another job for Ed.

I think I'll keep him.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Persimmon Dilemma

I moved into this house about ten years ago. The previous owner had forgone the lawn and instead tried to landscape it into an edible, Asian-inspired healing garden. One of the items she had planted was a Fuyu persimmon.

It was a cute little thing, not much higher than the grass that had grown around it. I weeded and gave it some water. The next year it rewarded me with one persimmon. Not to be discouraged, I continued to nurture it the next year. It thrived and put on several feet in height. That fall we had a wind storm and the thing cleaved in half. I dutifully sawed it up and chipped it into mulch.

I was a little distraught - I love persimmons, but figured I would just replace it in a few months when fruit trees were available. In March I went out to dig up the stump to prepare for the new tree, when I noticed it was sprouting new growth. There is nothing like a stump trying to come to life that tugs at me more. I let it grow.

The result is that I now have a persimmon tree that fruits. It must be some sort of wild root stock because the fruit is acorn-sized. They taste just like a regular persimmon but you have to eat about 100 to get the same serving size. I usually graze as far as I can reach and then leave the rest to the birds.

However, the tree is now approaching 20 feet and shows no sign of slowing down. Wild American persimmons grow to 80 feet. This thing is growing in front of my house and has already shown that it's easy to blow down. I could top it and try to keep it small, but I hate hacking on a tree and ruining it's form (although I don't seem to mind torturing my apples into an espalier.)

I need to make a decision. I have procrastinated on this for two years now. And dang it, if the fruit isn't the biggest it's ever been. They are the size of a walnut this year. It's a pretty tree...

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Here we are almost at the end of November and we just now got a frost here in Springfield, Oregon. Finally! Maybe I can catch up on my weeding. I love living in the Willamette Valley but sometimes I'd like a little break from all this verdant fecundity.

I harvested some beets yesterday and plan on making them into soup.

I am growing the variety Bull's Blood. They are fabulous. The foliage is a beautiful maroon color and the beets are not too sweet. I planted them very close together. The beets that were thinned out ended up in salad or stir fry. This allowed for the beet itself to grow.

Of course, the problem with all that overcrowding is that some start coming out of the ground.

They are growing in raised beds. The soil is from my compost bin and I have added grass clippings as top dressing all summer. This has made the beds very friable and it is easy to pull the beets when I am ready to eat them.

I have cooked the beets a variety of ways. During the summer when it was too hot to bake I just sliced them up and threw them into the stir-fry. Now that the weather is cooler I have been roasting them. I cut their tops and root off, then give them a good scrub. Next I pop them into a baking dish and brush them with olive oil. I bake them in the oven at 350 F for about an hour. I peel them after they are cooled.
Next they go into the sauce pot with some chicken broth. I use my immersion blender to puree. Once it's heated, it's ready to eat! On the yard food scale it's about 75% pure yard food. Now that's living.