A Pumpkin and a Monday Bento

Just before the Polar Vortex (November 2014) Ray found and brought inside one last pumpkin.

The last pumpkin of 2014, unceremoniously dropped into the potato bucket.

The last pumpkin of 2014, unceremoniously dropped into the potato bucket.

This is where the pumpkin landed about a week ago, I forgot that we even had it… until I came home from school today.

The pumpkin formerly known as Cinderella

The pumpkin formerly known as Cinderella

Pumpkin Snicker Doodles, Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Pie and roasted pumpkin seeds. The house smells AMAZING! We have the puree of four other pumpkins in the freezer… it’s gonna be a yummy winter! I bet there is some left for next year when we do not plant because of the Sabbath Year.

Monday Bento, Nov. 17

Monday Bento, Nov. 17

Beautiful blue sky but who shut off the heat? Burr! MSN is saying the high will be 50, but I don’t think it got that warm today. I do believe it will get down to 26 tonight. Sunrise was at 7:18, it’s fixen to set at 4:29 (9 hours and 11 minutes of daylight)

About the Monday Bento, slim pickings today. No starch in this one but I’m sure the two cookies I wolfed down after school make up for that! By the way, it surprised me that peeps were liking the last bento post. It is my everyday and I forget that bento is interesting to some of you. Thanks!

Protein from chicken salad left over from our Sabbath dinner.

  • Red = tomatoes and strawberries (on the yogurt)
  • Green = broccoli
  • Yellow = cantaloupe flowers
  • white = cucumber slices and cauliflower
  • Black = grapes, blueberries and blackberries

Todays hydration came from lemon-mint infused water. The morning snack was sliced apples, dates and almond butter for dipping.

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Back to Eden (part 3) The back 40 (feet)

We are subsistence farmers. We did not start out that way. A great family wage job kept us more then comfortable for years. Then the factory left town. With only a few years left until retirement we had a dilemma. Early retirement income and a wage from a small Christian school that brought in less a year then we once spent for a month from the factory left us feeling uneasy.

Rose (4)
We are a people who pray. Maybe that was why Paul Gautschi’s Back to Eden documentary got our attention from the first watch. He made his garden an extension of his belief in the creator of heaven and earth. God was given the glory in the fruit…. and vegetables of his labor.

We are people who pray. We believe that God speaks and speaks clearly to those who are willing to listen. The story of how we came to live in Everett is a Beauty for Ashes story, a “seek and you shall find” event. We knew that if we were to loose everything we would still have treasure in heaven. We have not lost anything but income, the adjustment is not easy but we serve a patient and loving Abba! The first order of business for us is, Thank God in ALL things and for all things.

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.   1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Our oldest son, Chris once said, “Poverty is a state of mind, not a reality.” I do not think he knows how much that spoke to me. Ray and I prayed. Getting work from someone else does not seem to be the will of God for our lives today. Can we live on about one-twelfth of our former income? With God, all things are possible. Time to walk the talk. I smile every time I see my favorite TV reality stars quack about knowing that if they lost everything they would still have each other and they would be ok. It is true, but it ain’t easy.

The very back of "the farm", once a pain to mow, now becoming fertile for fruit.

The very back of “the farm,” once a pain to mow, now becoming fertile for fruit.

In part 2 I mentioned the difficult first step of laying down a layer of bio-degradable weed block. Used newspapers and grocery bags have always been our first choice (paper not plastic… no mater what the wall street boys say about the plastic bio-degrading!). To convert the back garden to BTE would not only involve a substantial amount of recycled papers, it would also need a still day and possibly a team of Toy Box labor just to keep all those newspapers in place while we covered them with chips. A daunting task!

The solution? Inexpensive rolls of untreated paper from a Big Box construction store. Paul had suggested it in one of his clips. Repurposed paper is great for a small area but for the full back garden, rolled paper was the best way to go! This made it possible for the primary work to be a one man operation. Chris and I were happy to help, but we were not always home during work hours. Very simply the paper was rolled out to the area Ray was working on. A potted plant (we have lots of those) was set on each corner of the paper to hold it in place. The paper was just heavy enough to walk on and run the wheel-barrow over. Chips were dumped on the paper and spread out. He finished whole rows of garden in less time then it took to lay that many newspapers.

Square Foot Gardens meet BTE (transition)

Square Foot Gardens meet BTE (transition)

In a single afternoon Ray had finished laying chips. If nothing else it made a beautiful mulched paths around our square foot gardens. Square Foot Gardening and four city hens kept us well fed for the first two years after KC left Everett. At that time Ray was going to school with a KC + government grant for re-education. He earned his degree but that did not translate into a job. We needed to ask more from our tiny hobby farm. Things were getting real!

There was a time when we could have been properly labeled “foodies.” We would have rejected the label, but looking back, that is exactly what we were. We grew unusual vegetables, why grow what you can buy? We enjoyed traveling for peaches and pears in fall, lavender products in summer and asparagus in spring. Now we cannot afford the trips for the things we cannot grow and need enough potatoes and beans to put up. Square Foot Gardens are great for a little extra fresh food. I can even coax enough beans out of them for canning. It was a great way to garden on a lot that had really nasty soil. The main problem with SFG is the expense. Even with our former large income we only put in two to three new boxes per season. It was simply too big of an expense to put in more then that, as much as we love the method. Without an income, it is impossible for us to expand the number of boxes.

August 6 The Tomato Pole. 8 plants tepe style on one pole.

August 6 The Tomato Pole. 8 plants tepe style on one pole.

Our Back to Eden garden is in transition. We are told that it takes a few years to really be ready to plant, so for now we have left all the SFG’s in place. However, there is a corner of the garden that we did plant directly into the ground instead of into a SFG. At the far north east corner of the yard are my compost bins. We like to use hog-wire cylinders for the walls of the compost. When it is time to turn the pile the cylinder is lifted off (sometimes it is a little tricky to work it off) and the pile is forked back into the cylinder. Over the 5 seasons we have lived in Everett we have developed a very fertal patch of ground about 10 feet long and 4 or so feet wide just by moving the pile. The ground is soft, thick with earth worms and apparently well healed compared to what it was. When we first moved to Everett from our home in the Mountains, I tried to start a small garden in this area. Pushing a shovel into the ground was very much like trying to dig into a large bag of peat-moss. It was resistant to my work. The only thing that grew was a big thistle, not that the vegetables I planted didn’t try to grow. They just came up stunted and weak. That soil was the reason we fell in love with square foot gardening despite the start-up cost. Meanwhile we started the compost pile to feed the gardens.

All because of the healing power of home-grown compost.

All because of the healing power of home-grown compost.

The difference compost makes on really bad soil is dramatic. Back to Eden is basically a huge system of mulch and compost. The soil critters seem very happy, and when the worms are happy, the plants produce abundantly and I am happy.

The drama of the lone pear in the front garden is not our only evidence of the healing power of BTE. It is true that the green beans and the tomatoes we planted in the green chips of the garden out preformed the beans and tomatoes in the SFG’s, but as I mentioned, we had the rich, healing compost in that area so we wondered if it was really a fair comparison.

August 6 (6) By early August we were harvesting baskets of tomatoes almost weekly. It was the hottest, driest summer (2014) that either of us can remember. We often get a heat wave in late August, early September, but this time it started in late May with only two rains until early October. The SFG’s were thirsty. The only water the Back to Eden areas got was over-spray in a few places. Even so, the espaliered apple tree we have growing in back showed no sign of stress. I was stressed about the tent caterpillars that I daily plucked off and tossed over the fence, but the tree held up very well. My small patch of Logan berries and Marian berries are still looking nice as of November 16 (today). Always before, at the first sign of hot drought, they would start dying back. We actually got a little tired of picking them. The abundance was unexpected. A patch of purple asparagus came back thick and strong. I had Ray cover it up because the soil, despite the compost, was producing only a few spindly spears. We did not notice that new spears came up until they began to fern out, but the spears we saw were as thick as Ray’s thumb. The man has huge hands.

Fuji apples. The upper apple is on my tree, the one in my hand is from a neighbors tree (it was getting dark)

Fuji apples. The upper apple is on my tree, the one in my hand is from a neighbors tree (it was getting dark)

Is it worth all the work? There is still only one season of Back to Eden at The Toy Box. I keep repeating that it is too early to really know. Here is what I have seen in a year that was unusually hot for Everett… abundance! Not just your everyday abundance. Lush, almost obscene voluptuous fruit in abundance. This picture of apples was my ah-ha moment. Living in the city, I walk my two terriers most evenings. We walk past many pretty yards. A few of them have fruit trees near the sidewalk. One evening I picked up an average size Fuji apple laying near the sidewalk from a neighbors tree. I wondered how it compared to my Fuji branch. Between Ray and I, we had neglected to thin our apples last spring. They just grew as they were. We were led to believe that the fruit would be small and hard if we neglected to thin the fruit. I brought my stolen apple home and held it next to my own apples. What a difference! By the time I ran to get my camera I was loosing light, so maybe it is difficult to see what I saw. My unthinned Fuji was large, lush, clinging to the unstressed branch. The apple I picked up had already started dropping apples. They covered the lawn where the tree grew. By the way, it was a well watered and fertilized, green lawn that the stressed tree was growing on. All six of the varieties on my little tree were just as abundant as the Fuji. There were no tiny apples on my tree like there were on the neighbors trees. In yard after yard the fruit the neighbors were producing were all small and hard. The only difference that I can see is that my tree was growing in a Back to Eden garden and theirs were growing on well watered lawns. Amazing.

The view from my office window.

The view from my office window.

So, that is our story. If there is a part 4, it is yet to be written. There is a terraced slope on the south side of the yard we are working on. Ray and Chris recently had a look at our property lines and realized that we are paying taxes on quite a bit of land beyond the back fence where the ground slopes steeply to the park below. We hope to add more fruit trees on the hillside. We talk about enlarging the front food forest where the journey began. We are happily dreaming of more fruit trees.

Speaking of taxes, ours have gone up (along with insurance, which is all one bundle at our bank) by $200 a month. If nothing else changes then we are about to have even less income for food. On top of that, next season is the Sabbath year of rest for the land. We have no plans to plant in 2015. That should give our BTE areas more time to settle in. Are we afraid? Golly, there are moments when we feel fear creeping into the corners of our mind. Our God has yet to let us down. We will trust him. And if he keeps us in Everett until 2016, we will plant again, thanking him that it is not by our own hand that we thrive, but by his smile on our lives. Joy!

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. Proverbs 31:25

 

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Back to Eden and Bee populations

Thank you Rose at Family Gardening for bringing this important video to my attention.

Paul Stamets is apparently an evolutionist but his ideas are basic, even revolutionary, in an agro-business world. As a creationist I see the touch of YHVH all over the circle of life and the interaction between bears, the forest and bees. The circle is far larger then those three species of creation. At the end of the movie it doesn’t matter if you are an evolutionist or a creationist, the bottom line is we need better management practices. Keep up the fight against Monsanto but take your fight beyond the picket line.

Would love your thoughts on this.

Bees working The Toy Box Marion Berries

Bees working The Toy Box Marion Berries

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School Spirit Day Bento

What does School Spirit Day and Bento have in common?
Nothing.

My one and only two-tiered bento box.

My one and only two-tiered bento box.

Everything was all purple and Gold at school today so I used purple and yellow silicone cupcakes to hold some of my bento foods. The true theme of the day was Taco Thursday!

Ray made the most fantastic Tacos for dinner last night, so this morning (Thursday, November 14, 2014) I made a taco bento.

Bottom tier for taco fixens, top tier for yogurt, celery and fruit.

Bottom tier for taco fixens, top tier for yogurt, celery and fruit.

I was really looking forward to lunch today… and isn’t that the way it should be. I splurged on the yogurt, adding purple and yellow cupcake sugar to keep with the Spirit Day theme (my socks were purple too). I tried to cut my strawberries into the rose bud shapes I saw on someone’s facebook page. They just looked mashed when I opened my box. The bottom tier held a cupcake of bean mix that I removed to heat up in the microwave. Last year I went a whole year without using the dreaded microwave BUT it was freezing cold out today. If I want something heated I pack it in the silicone cupcake, microwave it for 40 seconds + 10 more seconds with the tortillas set on top of the bean mix. Then I set the beans back into the bento box so that everything fits neatly into my lap.

Lunch in my lap!

  • Protein: Taco Beans,
  • Starch: tortilla (cut with a big cookie cutter into 3 minis)
  • Red=Strawberries and tomatoes,
  • Green=broccoli and celery,
  • Yellows=dry ginger & almonds,
  • White=cucumbers,
  • Black=grapes and blueberries

Plain yoghurt with bananas and blueberries for dessert, blackberry infused water for yummy hydration rounded out my lunch.” Extra cheese was a gift from a student who was also having Taco Thursday. Thanks Nic! An earlier snack was sliced turkey and orange slices.

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The Cold Shoulder

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,

The Old Windmill comes alive with the east wind.

The Old Windmill comes alive with the east wind.

Nearly all of Canada and most of the United States are feeling the effects from the back-lash of Super Typhoon Nuri. After crashing into the Bearing Sea it made a wide sweep across Canada and south into the United States. In Western Washington (the state) we usually feel the after affects of a Bearing Sea storm with sweeping north winds running the Pacific coast into Everett. Not this time. This storm is only giving us her cold shoulder. There was frost on the farm but no snow or freezing rain. Time for a few chores to get “winter ready”.

November 11, 2014 (10) The Nuggets spend the night in an unheated chicken house so job one is making sure the girls have the best environment possible. They are well suited for a PNW winter. The most difficult job is keeping their water in a liquid state. Ray cleaned up the Easter Basket and tossed a couple of flecks of hay in the run. They like it best if they can do their own house keeping, which saves us from feeling the need to spread it out.

The old chicken tractor, a little worse for wear.

The old chicken tractor, a little worse for wear.

One perk about spring and autumn for city hens is the freedom to get out of the chicken yard a little more often. We try to keep it interesting in the yard with buckets full of gourmet weeds with treasures like beetles, crushed snails and fat worms, but there is nothing like harvesting your own salad and digging for your own protein snack. I don’t know how many more seasons the old tractor has before we have to do some major fixes. (and by we, I mean Ray, tehe)

Inside the chicken tractor, working the former onion bed.

Inside the chicken tractor, working the former onion bed.

After ten-plus days of being down with the flu it felt fantastic to be out. The beds are in ratty condition and with the cold sunshine I would love to park myself infront of a bed, clean it up, get it ready for next season. But next season is the Schemata, the year of Sabbath rest, so I actually have plenty of time. I’ll let the girls do the work for me. Sometimes I wish all of my labor force thought working at the Toy Box was like having a date night.

Inside the green house, the bay tree was just moved back in.

Inside the green house, the bay tree was just moved back in.

There are so many jobs I am going to have to putz at (it is what I do best). It takes me longer and longer to recover from the flu. The greenhouse walls need a scrub, the floor of the house looks sloppy, the shelves need straightening. There will not be much to do this spring when it would normally be time to plant. There are jobs that can wait until then. I just like getting out there.

Brussels Sprouts, about to experience the sweetening effect of frost.

Brussels Sprouts, about to experience the sweetening effect of frost.

Because of the Schemata, there is no winter garden to brag about or look forward to. No bed of leeks for when the onions run out, no celeriac to brighten winter soup, no bed of greens to fuss over. There are a few kale and chard plants, the Brussels sprout and a bed of herbs but that is all. This is by faith. This year, instead of writing about what the rain provides, I’ll speak of what Abba provides. It is only for a year.

November 11, 2014 Pretty blue sky, brisk, cold wind. Sunrise was at 7:09, 0% chance of rain. Icy NE wind gusting to 19mph. Sunset at 4:36 when the temperature could drop as low as 26 degrees. 8 hours and 27 minutes of daylight.

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More thoughts on the Back to Eden project (part 2)

I tend to farm the way I posted my thoughts in part 1. I meant to write an overview but got distracted by the details of the strawberries. It is who I am. I’ll try this again.

Young Provider Green Beans

Young Provider Green Beans in a Back to Eden Garden

Rototill the garden in the spring, burn leaves in the autumn. That is the cycle, that is how it has always been (always being as long as I can remember). Press seed into the soft loam and pray that somehow there are more vegetables then weeds. But once your children wise up and realize that there are easier ways to earn candy money you loose your labor force and it all becomes overwhelming.

When Ray and I moved back to the city it was supposed to be a temporary gig. We both worked in town and the one hour drive back to our mountain valley home just kept getting less enjoyable (to say the least). It really was not just the commute that brought us to Everett, there were multiple reasons. All of them connected with our work. With both of us in our 50′s we planned to work until retirement, sell the city house and get our red-necks back to the highlands where we belong. Apparently plans do not always play out as expected.

Food Forest full, what next?

Food Forest full, what next?

KC, the factory Ray had been working for, quit on Everett before we had a chance to quit on Everett. Suddenly, the passion I had for growing food was ramped up a notch. Salads and summer foods were not going to be enough. That was the easy part. I love growing good fresh food.

I had quite an investment in fruit trees that I keep in large pots. The same was true for blueberries and different lavenders. I even have a tub of mixed raspberries. When we thought that Everett was a temporary home I tried to keep my bigger investments ready to move when the time was right. Suffice it to say, I was reluctant to put roots in Everett.

March 2014. As a family we agreed that if we sleep here then we are going to live here. Without the income we once had from KC, it did not look like we could finance a move back to the mountains. For as long as God keeps providing for the mortgage payment, this would be our homestead.  That was the day the orchard was destined to move from mobile containers to city soil.

Through the garden gate, Back to Eden

Through the garden gate, Back to Eden

When we signed the book of papers on the Everett house, we vaguely remembered something about an HOA. It is important to Ray that everything looks domestic and tame in the front garden. He does a fantastic job of that. His personality is wild and untamed but his heart is orderly and artistic. It shows in the gardens he designs. Ray’s first collage education was in forestry with a minor in landscaping. The man know trees and how to design the bones of a garden. He takes my random thoughts and puts a plan together (instead of getting lost in the strawberries). Here is the other thing about Ray. He is single focused. I am the random one who takes pictures of everything, every step of the way for my blog. There are times that I get distracted while I am working because I am writing my blog in my head while the rest of me is at work with what is in front of me. I have to stop to think of how I want to communicate what I am doing and how to illustrate it (my camera is usually in my pocket, birds do not wait for me to run get it) Ray takes beautiful pictures when he is out to take pictures. He is not out to take pictures when he is working on a project. The first Back to Eden project happened while I was at school, so no pictures of the process. I came home and there it was, ready to plant.

Step 1 for BTE in the suburbs was to make a plan. Ray listened to my random dream of self-sufficiency in the city. They included a food forest for fruit, select perennial herbs, mostly lavender and rosemary, and the perennial vegetables I grow, asparagus and artichokes. I kept using the phrase “food forest”. He designed an orderly garden and framed it in with landscape timbers. He gave me a space where I can be as random as my heart desires.

Step 2 Kill the grass. Lawn in the maritime north-west can survive nearly anything. A biodegradable layer of lawn block must go down before the chips come in. Ray said that this was by far the most tedious part of the process. We have always used whatever we can recycle. When he ran out of newspaper he started using brown paper bags, cut open and laid flat. The difficulty in this step is the wind. Every little breeze sends the paper out of place. While working, the paper shouldn’t be stepped on incase it rips. Every rip in the paper, every gap between papers lets light in. Give a blade of grass a bit of light and it will  honor the creator by shooting through layers of duff to start a new colony on the surface. In Part 3 of this series I’ll tell you about our ah-ha moment and a much easer way to put down the paper base.

Step 3 Add a thick layer of green chips. Green chips means that the wood run through the chipper is full of pine needles or leaves. This is important. Bags of garden mulch will not be the same because they are too dry and lacking in the green material that will turn it into healthy soil. Ray put an eight inch layer of chips over the paper. It is beautiful.

Step 4 Plant. Some of our potted orchard had been in those pots for five years producing a nice selection of hard to find varieties of local heirloom fruit. We are espically fond of our Orcas Pear from a homestead on Orcas Island in the San Juan’s. There is a 5-kind grafted pear tree and a 5 kind sweet cherry tree. As Ray was heeling in the last tree, it hit us. We did not trim the root ball. We have raised potted trees for years. We started with little meyer lemon trees while we lived in the mountains. About every three years, potted trees need a root trim. These had been in their pots for five years and looked root bound when we planted them. We were tired after digging the holes for the trees. It is difficult to sink a shovel through eight inches of chips after a long day. Nothing can be done about that now. They seem OK, but next spring will give us a better idea of how they are doing.  Note: just after the fruit had set in the spring, a blacktail doe came and stripped the leaves and most of the fruit from the trees. That is why it is difficult to see if the trees are doing well or thriving. After 25 years in the mountains, we never had any deer damage in the gardens. Who knew that would be an issue in the city?

Blueberries, artichokes and lavender all went into the food forest. We love the look of it, the taste of it and we love that it does not need to be watered. Seriously! The summer of 2014 was hot and dry. That is a rare occurrence in western Washington. But the food forest did not need watering. We occasionally dug down to check the moisture levels. It was soft and perfectly moist under the upper layers of the chips.

Bosc Pears from the neighbors tree and a BTE Bartlett pear. There was only a fence and a pile of chips between them.

Bosc Pears from the neighbors tree and our BTE Bartlett pear. There was only a fence and a pile of chips between them.

Does Back to Eden really make a difference? We have only come through our first season. It is too early to say for sure. But we like what we know about it so far. No watering. That is important when you are living on a hyper-reduced income. But is it worth the effort?

When you find an add for “free woodchips, you shovel and haul away,” what it means is, you have to drive out to the place, probably multiple times if you have a pick-up or small utility trailer. You have to take the number 2 shovel (Ray’s not so affectionate term for a garden shovel after running a back-hoe for years), fill up the truck or trailer, bring it home, unload it and go back for more before someone else is able to get your treasure. It means not letting the pile sit long enough to bother the neighbors. A family with chickens and a compost pile does not want unhappy neighbors. Nor do you want a dead lawn from letting the pile sit too long. It means doing all the steps above. Like I said, it is still early, but we think it is well worth it. In this picture of pears, it may be difficult to see the worth so let me tell you what you are looking at. The rental next door has an overgrown pear tree. Since Ray has been raising mason bees, that poor tree has been covered with pears (before Ray’s bees, the only reason we knew it was a pear tree was because of the ONE pear it would produce every year). That tree is right outside our dining room window. We asked the landlord if we could pick the fruit if we gave him half. He invited us to take it all and bake him a pie. We ended up making fruit leather out of all the fruit we could salvage. We had hoped to can it. The tree was stressed after the long dry summer. The fruit was hard, there were multiple splits in it from the few times it was watered over the hot summer. Many of the pears were a nice size but the majority of them were small.

By chance, as we came home with those pears, we noticed that the deer left us one Bartlett pear. When I put my hand under it and tilted it up for inspection it fell into my hand. Bartlett pears are not like Bosc pears. Even so, the difference was dramatic. Smooth skin somewhere between silky and waxy. Just by holding it I could tell it was juicy, heavy for its size. No sign of insect damage.

A week later we checked on the ripeness of our pears (in case you have not raised pears before, you pick them green and let them finish ripening off the branch). The bosc pears were still rocks. But our Bartlett was fragrant and had some give to the touch. Ray and I cut it up and had it for a snack one evening. I am not exaggerating when I say it was the best pear we have ever eaten!

But wait, there’s more! We still had a mountain of wood chips to take care of, come back for part 3.

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Thoughts on the first year Back To Eden project (Part 1)

Late winter 2014 and a choice had to be made. That is the season of mega piles of free green wood chips. Are we gonna do this or are we gonna just talk about it?

March 12, 21014

March 12, 21014 I come home from school to a pile of “We’re gonna do this”

We talked about it, We read about it. The reports were glowing. Huge juicy fruit and vegetables. Little to no work beyond planting, pruning and harvesting. No watering. Sounds too good to be true, and you know what they say about that. When I saw the text about a free load of fresh chips someone wanted to give away, I did not think much about it. The job always looks bigger when I see it then it does when I’m thinking about it.

Early winter strawberry bed under a blanket of composted horse and chicken bedding covered with more then four inches of green chips

Early winter strawberry bed under a blanket of composted horse and chicken bedding covered with more then four inches of green chips

I have a confession to make. When it comes to farm work and house work, I like to putz. I want to enjoy the process, hear the bird song, smell the earth. It’s true, I’m a bit lazy. But I like to finish a corner instead of getting crazy with step by step everywhere. We have a Square Foot Garden (SFG) at the back of our property dedicated to strawberries. Nothing was happening in the strawberry bed in March. Because I had heard that it takes a couple of years for a BTE garden to be really ready, I hedged my bets by layering in freshly mucked chicken bedding, a layer of older compost, finished by a layer of composted horse stable bedding (the lady next door worked at a boarding stable). Then I grabbed a shovel and a Lowes bucket. Then two Lowes buckets. I only put a four inch deep layer of chips on the strawberry bed.  It hardly made a dent in the pile of chips out front!

May 31, 2014 The strawberry bed is to the right in the (raised) SFG, finally growing through all the layers I put on it.

May 31, 2014 The strawberry bed is to the right in the (raised) SFG, finally growing through all the layers I put on it.

By mid April I was worried that I had killed my strawberries. Nothing, and I mean zero sign of green, was coming through. My neighbors and fellow bloggers were getting green already, what did I do to mine? Soon enough one, then three and finally a whole box of strawberry plants began to come through.

June 8 and we are getting ready for shortcake season.

June 8 and we are getting ready for shortcake season.

All my worry was for nothing. Jam season was right on schedule. I had worried about slugs with all the nice moist places for them to hid. To be honest, we had a few berries that had been taste tested but not at all like I was afraid of. I will keep my eyes open next summer if we are still here, but a little bit of sluggo early in the season is probably still a good idea. I did not use anything but a flashlight and a bit of salt this year. I did not water the strawberry box at all during this hottest of PNW summers. We had a hot drought that seemed to last from late May to mid September. The truth is, I couldn’t have done much work in the garden this summer even though I wanted to. Some fifteen plus years after a summer hike and suffering what some call a heat stroke (others tell me that people do not survive heat stroke, so I do not know what happened to me), I still get violently sick once it gets warmer then the mid 80′s. The summer of 2014 goes down as a summer spent in my room with the AC on. Blah! Mornings were good for getting out. I could stand about 20 minutes in the garden before that uncomfortable throbbing starts at the back of my head. My guys are all very good to me! Beans got canned, strawberries got jammed, but the poor dogs did not get as many walks as they would have liked. Never mind, it was still a fantastic summer and I have a lot more pictures of getting our Back to Eden Garden started.

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