a bento and my new cherry tree

First, the teachers lunch bag

April 4, 2016 (4)

Orange Chicken and rice, sweet potatoes, a lot more spinach then what shows and fruit, nuts and yogurt for dessert.

Next, the new cherry tree

April 4, 2016 (1)

4-way multi sweet cherry tree

So Ray and I had a bee in our bonnet. We wanted another dwarf multi fruit tree for our mini orchard. Specifically, we wanted a multi sweet cherry tree. Even more specific… we wanted it to be an espalier cherry tree. Now that was a bit of a trick! Some nurseries we went to told us, no one does that, you will not find one. She may have been right. We could find multi-cherry trees and espalier apples or pears, but no multi espalier sweet cherries.

So we made a trip out to Flower World in Snohomish, Washington for one last look. No espalier cherry trees. However, they did have one tree among their multi cherry trees that had all of the grafted branches going east and west instead of all around the trunk of the tree.

Forty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents plus tax and it was ours. Ray planted it right away. While I was at school today he put up the posts and wires to train the tree on. Beautiful… but do you see what he did to the top? Here is a better shot of the top of my cherry tree There were two extra (Bing) branches growing upward instead of east and west.

April 4, 2016 (2)

The two top branches of my new espalier tree.

My sweet man gave me a another valentine! (The first one he gave me is my Rudy Valentine) How sweet and romantic is that? As a Scottish man, he did not want to waste those branches, but as my honey he made me something special. Awww!

April 4, 2016 (5)

Tootsie Pop Bouquet

All that he got from me was candy… and he has to share!

Debs at the Toy Box Suburban Farm in Everett, WA where it is chilly and rainy (53/41). Sun rise was at 6:39 AM. It will set at 7:44 PM. Meanwhile there’s gonna be a whole lotta breeze blowen the deer tape around. (Happy Birthday Daddy)

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The First Half of April in the Garden

April 2, 2016 (2)
April at The Toy Box. I cannot say that I have been working hard to get where we are this month, I like to putter about for a couple of hours after school every day. Maybe it would be better to proclaim, I have been diligent. Yep, that’s it, I am going with diligent. We have been checking off the jobs that need to be done in the days working up to where we are. Getting trees planted or trimmed, adding wood chips, running flats of seedlings in and out of the weather, protecting them from frost and floods of rain. April is when the “diligence” comes together. We are already eating some of this years salad with the last of last years herbs, leeks and kale.

April 1, 2016 (7)

Morning Prayer

Just when it seems like Ray can sit back and enjoy the beauty of our Suburban Farm, I come up with another major, pain in his back, plan. This season it involves moving two established SFG’s (square foot gardens) to make room for more BTE (back to Eden) growing areas. As subsistence farmers we want to get as much food from our little bit of land as we are able. I (Debs) started out as a foodie/hobby farmer. Best use of space was not part of my plan.

April 1, 2016 (2)

Winter Sown Artichokes (up-potted)

Seedlings: We have soil blocks of tomatoes waiting to be potted up. I have been saving that job for a rainy day. As of today (April 2, 2016) I am on the last weekend of Spring Break from school. The weather has been beautiful so I keep putting that job off. I am reading that rain is coming. The job will get done. The salad greens (romain and mixed reds) have been planted in the front yard SFG, one of the pots of sweet-pea starts were planted in the front garden. Our broccoli and cauliflower are huge and ready for planting out. (suddenly I am feeling just a little bit overwhelmed).

April 2, 2016 (8)

Swiss Chard makes a comeback

Everett, Washington had a very mild winter. We are not quite safe from a “last frost date” yet so I am still holding my breath. We garden just north of “don’t worry about killing frosts in spring” land. I stand amazed watching winter food become beautiful plants. The Swiss Chard in this picture is one example. Light frosts and heavy rain reduced is to an unappetizing mess that I was sure I would be digging out; but look at it. Instead of digging it out I need to dig out my recipes! We have grown the white stem type of chard ever since we have grown it. I have not learned to enjoy it raw yet so the beautiful colors available have not found a place in my chard patch… until this year. I am looking forward to a new variety labeled “Peppermint Chard”. It looks like it has a red-pink base and white upper stem and veins. Am I the only goofy ol’ woman who gets excited about a different color of chard?

April 2, 2016 (5)

Spring Artichoke

One Artichoke survived winter 2015-16 in our Everett, WA garden. In truth we have had roots survive to send up fresh growth but we have never had a whole plant survive the winter. One hard frost could bring it down so I am trying to not get too attached. But I cannot help thinking how totally kewl to have 2nd season artichokes this summer! I also have a beautiful, thick stand of delicious red celery growing in the same garden. It smells awesome! I have not read any good reviews about red celery yet…. here is mine. YUM.

April 2, 2016 (10)

Leeks and (umm) chicken food

The last of our leeks and celeriac have been lovely! This year the guys did not get out to gather fallen leaves so I never did get leaf mulch piled around my root crops, they were fine. There was only one day that I went out to harvest for a winter dinner that turned into a fail because of frozen ground. The last few leeks I have harvested have had woody centers, a sigh that they are getting ready to bolt so I need to use them as quickly as possible. The garlic I planted last October is beautiful. I made such a dumb mistake.

April 2, 2016 (9)

Green Roman and Valentine Mix Lettuce

I remember Paul Gautschi of the BTE film saying that I should put my very best potatoes right back into the ground for the next harvest; which I did. What I missed is that they will come up the following March, which they have. Mean while I thought the replant of potatoes was a total fail and planted my garlic over the former potato bed. While the potato sprouts are still fairly small, both are doing fine. Last year all of my garlic was volunteer. The garlic I planted was from the best of those cloves. This season I found dozens of new garlic volunteers while cleaning up a bed for early pea plants. I should have plenty of garlic this season (assuming everything goes well in my garden world). We have made so many soups and put up so much stock that we are plum outta garlic already! Lately we have been clipping green garlic with our parsley (another winter survivor) when we make a dish that needs a spicy boost.

April 2, 2016 (11)

Climbing pea and bean frame

For the first time since moving to Everett, I will not be planting my main crop of peas in a SFG. We have a whole system of support to attach to the SFG beds. Back when I planted tall peas in Robe Valley (east of Granite Falls, WA) I quit planting tall peas because they were too difficult to keep upright when the vines were heavy with our famous rain combined with the occasional wind storm. Ray has built a frame for the BTE garden that we have high hopes for. The legs of the frame go a little more then a foot into the ground. I have planted peas on the port side of the frame and plan to plant green beans on the starboard side in late May. There will be a short season when both are growing on the frame, but the peas should be done by mid July when the beans are just taking off. We are hoping for a fantastic harvest (knees bent, fingers laced!)

April 2, 2016 (12)

Fava Bean sprouts

Strawberries are coming up through the wood chips, raspberries are making buds, the logan and marian berry vines are already looking lush. Still no sigh of Asparagus, but I guess it is a little early. I have spotted early leaves of Rhubarb and it is beautiful. The comfrey is fixen to take over the berry beds. I’ve also seen early signs of deer damage. Gurrrr! The fava beans (also known as broad beans) we planted in February are looking great, except for one little problem. The garden looks so empty in February that I tend to plant far too many of , well, everything that gets planted early. Good thing we love Fava beans! (they are not really a reason to drink Italian wine… or so the  theory goes).

April 2, 2016 (13)

A living grid in the SFG

A living grid of carrots, radishes, spinach, mixed greens, fennel, scallions, bok choi, and I forget what else; was the plan for one of the tomato beds. Somewhere in the planting, I forgot that I was making a grid and started squeezing in as much as I could. Looking at the bed now, if everything grows, it will be a tight fit but I am sure I can still get those tomato plants growing and keep them happy. Some mistakes are happy accidents. That is what I am hoping for this one.

April 1, 2016 (5)

First, a cuppa jo, then we work

We have entered a time of year when there is a new check list every two weeks instead of every month. We are still looking for a multi-espaliered sweet cherry tree. Does anyone even make those? Beds need to be moved, seedlings planted out, framework put up for the tomatoes, maybe a new tomato tent if we have a sudden cold snap. The pepper bed needs more soil mix and the kitty kover should go over that bed. I really need to get busy on the new herb garden since Ray has terraced the hill side with the stones his mother chose for her porch so many years ago. It just needs a good weeding and the plants I’ve been growing for it. Beet seeds need to go in…. somewhere. So many happy puzzles to figure out.

April 1, 2016 (1) For as long as this post is, this is the short version of how my garden grows. How about you? Be sure to include where you garden and let me know how you are feeding your self (or making the world a beautiful place with your flowers!) where you live. I hear that the strawberry harvest is already over in Texas.

Debs… who only has time to sit because it is Sabbath. Tomorrow we will be getting out and getting dirty, with joy!

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Late March at the Toy Box

March 6 2016 (1)
March is stressful. I am anxious to get my garden growing but at school, children are starting to realize that if they want to avoid summer school, they better get cracking! Somehow I have managed to get most of my chores done.

The early peas are in, so are the carrots and greens. Fava beans are showing but there is still so much to do.

March 2, 2016 (3) I love my greenhouse. It lets me go out no matter what the weather is. By doing just a little each day I feel OK about being ready to plant. Those onions are a little disappointing this year. I usually have water from an aquaponics tank to water the greenhouse. Fish tank water is powerful and makes onions fatten up fast! Not so much this year.

March 20, 2016 (5)

Broccoli and Cauliflower hardening off before going into the ground.

March 20, 2016 (2)

Winter-sown artichokes up-potted. I have no idea where I will put them all, but I am confident that I will find a place.

March 20, 2016 (4)

If only I could find a day to plant the sweet peas out.

March 8, 2016 (3)

This little bed is doing well. Early in March I put in mixed greens, peas and lots of volunteer garlic. Every thing is growing well. We have actually been harvesting small salads from the greens.

March 18, 2016 (1)

Sunrise at The Toy Box Suburban Farm. We are still here and trying to share what is going on in Everett, Washington. Sometimes we just keep up with the work and do not have time to write. Never mind, only nine weeks of school left. We will be back soon enough!

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February Chores Done!

January 30, 2016 (3)
Pretty Cold” meaning it was a pretty afternoon and it was too cold to work without a hoodie and long-sleeve shirt. The crocuses have been in bloom all week but it has been raining in Everett. Finally a beautiful day, so I ran out and planted Fava Beans. If the squirrels do not dig them up, and the dogs do not run them over, and if the deer do not eat them, we should have fresh favas for 4th of July.

February 10, 2016 Potatoes Potatoes chitting in the kitchen window. Everything I planted in the soil blocks video is up and looking hopeful. I love seed saving but for some reason I am such a skeptic about being successful with my own saved seed. I seem to have the mind set that if it doesn’t come from a professional it will not be any good. Peshaw! The seed that I saved is coming up strong!

February 20, 2016 (4) Putting all my sweet peas into one container (per the royal sweet pea society) seemed like a fantastic idea on a cold February after-school-noon. Now I am looking at all those sweet peas and wondering, “what was I thinking?” I have two more tubs just like this one. Normally I plant about two and a half foot long row of sweet peas. This year I am going to be sweet pea central! All of them are the tall climbing type because that is what what I could find at planting time.

February 8, 2016 (12) bento I like to keep my menu as seasonal as possible. Obviously this bento has more then home grown or local foods. The tomatoes scream “south of the boarder!” But look again. see those cute little tartletts? They are made from Toy Box eggs, leeks and kalette which were harvested just moments before being chopped and baked with Toy Box parsley into those tarts. Thanks to Foodie Laura for the fantastic idea. I tend to think of quiche as complicated, but with the filo tart shells, easy-peasy.

February 23, 2016 Weather I am a teacher, it is Tuesday, but looking at the weather prophecy, it sure seems like a good day for the Blue-Sky-Flu. I won’t do it but I am thinking about it.

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Make soil blocks and plant some seeds

I meant to start my February seeds on Valentines Day, but as much as I like to get my hands dirty, I do not like squishing around in soil block mud without gloves. Went shopping, came home, made dinner, kissed my Valentine and BAM it was too dark to work outside. Lucky me, we had Presidents Day off from school too, so out in the rain I went to plant seeds into soil blocks.

Not long enough for popcorn, so grab a licorice or a chocolate and enjoy.

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Winter Salad

Walking by a tub of cold weather greens, I noticed something I have not seen since last autumn. Thick rosettes of Beaujolais (red) Spinach. Since I planned to make a salad anyway I ran and got the salad spinner basket and scissors. It was not long before I had a basket of baby mustards, spinach and Kalette. Fantastic early February find…. and it was not covered!

February 6, 2016 (1)

The color came from Trader Joe’s but the crunch is all Toy Box!

Eating from the garden doesn’t make it spring by any stretch. I let the dogs out at midnight and noticed that the deck was covered with frost. Bundled up, grabbed a flashlight and brought in the trays from the greenhouse. They would have been fine. It was 4o degrees inside the greenhouse last night, and still 40 when I brought the trays back out this morning. Oh well.

This is the last night of the Wolf Moon, but as if to remind me that no matter what happens with the ground hog (what is a ground hog anyway?), the new moon is called The Snow Moon. Because often it does snow while this moon sits in the night sky.

February 7, 2016 Weather Going north for a potato hunt today.

Ridgezilla might not be as tough as predicted but it is still too early for some tender plants. It is cold at night and I am not quite ready to make the daily trek back and forth to the green house to gather up trays of babies.

Happy day to you from Everett Washington.

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Root Division of Tarragon

Spring at The Toy Box Suburban Farm means dividing Tarragon.

So many tarragon lovers take cuttings of mature stems. Honestly I’ve never tried that because early in February, when there isn’t much to do on a NorthWestern urban farm, dividing up a pot of Tarragon is a pleasant way to count down the days until Spring. It is a simple, no fuss way to spend a chilly day in an (almost) warm greenhouse.

The video starts with the onions getting their first hair cut… hang in there for the Tarragon.

February 6, 2016 Weather February Garden To-Do’s

  • Make a tray of “soil-blocks”
  • Start blocks of broccoli, cauliflower and peas
  • Plant Fava Beans
  • Start a mini tray of lettuces
  • Finish (or start) garden plan

In Everett, Washington we are less then 15 minutes shy of the “ten hours of daylight” time. Assuming the weather co-operates, things start growing in ten hours of daylight! Whoot!

Debs…. off to make a Leek Tart with a few of those fat leeks standing proud in the garden and the eggs the chickens are still laying (Thanks Foodie Laura).

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