Author Archives: The Toy Box: sub-urban farm

About The Toy Box: sub-urban farm

Sub-urban farming was a hobby. It has become a way to live because of the economy we live in. I are discovering the surprise of living abundantly, cooking voluptuously, and loving wildly on our toy box of a farm. I love my God and the life he has given us here on this tiny "Toy Box" of a farm. Everyday is an adventure!

The Decision Has Been Made

Changes are coming to The Toy Box.

It will be a slow transition, but it is coming. We are fixen to sell our urban farm and hit the road. Being an American Gypsy has always been a dream, now we have decided to do it. We have two years to make the transition. There are moments that I am completely overwhelmed. There are times when I am dancing for joy.

Today, just walking the dogs seems precious. I will not walk this walk through the seasons again… once we go.

787 days from today, April 19, 2017 To Launch Day, June 15, 2019

2 more years of school, 2 more gardens… unless something changes.

Debs at The Toy Box Suburban Farm… Soon to be the Toy Box Life (humm, that could change)

Everett, Washington

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Spring again… happy me!

3March 26, 2017 (26)

Tiny Pink and White French Breakfast Radishes

Every year about this time, the daffodils bloom, the birds sing during the day and the frogs party by the light of the moon. We survived another winter. It’s good to be alive.

2february-25-2017-1 I have a couple of garden projects I like to start in January and February, but those are mostly to scratch what starts to itch with the first seed catalog. My Gardening starts to get honest when the peas and first potatoes go into the cold, wet soil.

3March 26, 2017 (21) I planted a lot of pea seeds, Tall Alderman, a French Heirloom sno pea, Sugar Snaps and a row of Green Arrow peas. I could show you pictures of those but right now they look a whole lot like clean dirt, wood chips and a nice structure Ray made for them to climb. These peas (a big pot of Cascade Snap Peas and another of Maestro) I started on Presidents Day. They seem to like it outside.

3March 26, 2017 (27) Potatoes: These were started in February. I’ve planted Vikings (Purple, Gold, Fight Fight) Yellow Bananas, and some kind of yellow that I saved from last year. I still have some Russet Burbanks and another fingerling still to put out. We do not have a lot of room for lots of potatoes, but we do what we can. A man once said that if I haven’t had a fresh from the dirt potato then you really do not know what a potato tastes like. He was right.

There is more to spring then peas and potatoes. I had a walk-about  this morning to see whats happening. Here is a small selection.

3March 26, 2017 (20)

The Herb Garden …chives are looking good

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Comfrey coming up in the Raspberry bed. It won’t be long until I’m pulling up big bundles of this daily for the chickens and all my medicinal needs.

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Two years ago I planted some very expensive flowering broccoli (a kale-brussels sprout hybrid). It comes back, or maybe better, it doesn’t die. Every year it sends up a new stem and makes a new branch of kale flowers. I guess it was worth the price of the seed. My hens sure like it.

3March 26, 2017 (5)

There is still a lot of work to do but we are enjoying every moment.

3March 26, 2017 (18) That’s my Rudy Valentine standing in my new strawberry bed. It was supposed to be an asparagus bed but they didn’t take. So all of the strawberries that I pulled out of the herb bed went upstairs into my new strawberry bed. I think these are called Pacific Reliant. I bought two or three plants last spring and now they are everywhere… well they were everywhere, now they’ve moved to this bed. In front of Rudy is a stand of Fever Few, the tea from the flowers does everything an aspirin does without eating away your stomach. The echinacea (cone flower) is just coming up all burgundy and fresh. If I’m not careful where I step, the scent of peppermint fills the air. It’s nice. Welcome back Spring!

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Filed under Back to Eden Garden, Chickens, Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm

Learning about my Kelly Kettle

Fire in the hole!

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Learning to boil water. That used to be a sarcastic joke I told about fellow women who were well educated and had a fantastic social life but could not cook. It has become a different kind of joke with my new Kelly Kettle.

I’m pretty sure I can light a quick cook fire that burns down to a steady bed of coals. I can turn pancakes golden brown without black spots, bring a pot of coffee to a boil and have a corner of the pit that is burning limbs to use for more charcoal if needed… in the rain! I’m rather proud of my fire-pit skills. I could hardly get my Kelly to flame. Oh the shame of it all!

How timely, here is help. Now I will look for fat wood (and not look down my nose at the thought of it being needed for a simple campfire). Funny, but after watching David’s video, I feel the need for a certain beach on the Washington State Peninsula.

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A Kelly Kettle

I was not supposed to be home when it came…. but I was.

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We have not been camping for quite a while. Our income has not allowed it for a stretch of time. We still have to be careful, but it looks like we may be able to take a couple of trips if we can do it for the price of gas in the Big Green Bud. Now if I can just keep myself from buying too many new toys. Because I’m thinking we need this stove and pot (or at least the pot) Giggling is the sound of the day

3march-2-2017-kelly-kettle-1 Happy Birthday to me! I kept saying how much I liked Kelly Kettle, but did not think there was one in my future. They are not inexpensive. But there it was! Now there I am practicing on my back porch, giving it a go, bringing water to a boil, dumping it down the sink to get any factory finish out of it before we take it for a drive in the mountains. I am a happy girl!

By the way, the zebra pot has nothing to do with Kelly Kettle… it is just the next toy I want to get out into the wild with… Happy trails!

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A Garden Journal for March

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Perhaps the most anticipated month of the season, March is when things start getting real. The tomatoes that we all fuss over all year long are started. Actual outdoor gardening begins.

March the 17th, sleep the 18th has long been my personal motto. Not for the reason you may think. On St. Patrick’s day, after putting on a creamy green soup and popping soda bread on a cooling rack, I head outside to plant peas, potatoes and onions. Some years it is with a slicker and golishes (an old word for rubber boots), other years it is in shirt sleeves and tenny runners. Both give me joy under the Worm Moon.

Vivi at Vivie’s Kitchen Garden Adds a tray of celery to the list. That sounds good to me! On it.

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Twenty-eight Packages of Tomato Seed

One 8 x 4 Tomato garden. august-6-6-copy

Maybe there is enough room on our little urban farm. We start the season intending to give plants away, but we always have too many. By the time we are ready to part with our Toy Box Tomatoes, our friends and fellow teachers have already bought plants from different places. We end up tucking them EVERYWHERE

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Soil Blocks and Tomato Seed  Twenty eight packets of different tomato seeds. Twenty-six of them are either OP (Open Pollinated) or heirloom. All of them are beloved.

It starts every year , right around the 2nd weekend in March. I used to start in December when the catalogs would come. I am easily seduced.

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Every year they do what they were created to do. I’m such a sap, each season I get VERY excited …from the moment their little green leaves arch up, to the time when they are big enough to up-pot, and up-pot again… until they start spending their days out on the deck. That is when the work begins. We have jumped out of bed, Wrapped up in an old robe and sloggers when we hear the rain on the window, remembering that we forgot to bring in the seedlings!

april-1-2016-5-tomato Early in the season Ray and I carry trays of seedlings, including at least two trays of tomatoes, out for natural sunlight. We do not use heat mats or artificial lights. We get our best results without them. Everett, Washington is not tomato country. The sooner they adjust to our chilly maritime climate, the better they produce.

 

may-24-2015-12-rudy-lettuce-tomato Planting day is a big deal. We used to be SFG’s (Square Foot Garden) but are transitioning to BTE (Back To Eden). The tomatoes go into a 4’x8′ foot SFG that is in transition to BTE. In early April I like to plant a salad grid. Different types of lettuce go in width-wise every twelve inches and radishes go in length wise to make a boundary. Tomatoes are planted in the squares that have been formed by the lettuce and radishes.

may-24-2015-3-tomatoes This structure (pictured to the left) used to be for pole beans. Ray had already put it in the ground one year when I needed to find more places to plant tomatoes. It is an eight foot 4″x4″ (sunk 2 feet into the ground). On the top it has a cross made of 2×4’s. The cross is attached to the top of the post and comes out like spokes. String or wire is attached to a tent stake, goes up and loops around the end of a 2×4, then comes back down to another tent stake. I can plant eight tomatoes or 16 -ish pole beans. It works great for both… though some modifications need to be made to the string for tomatoes.

tomato-pole-4 A better view of the tomato-bean pole a bit later in the season. This was the first year. Now I spend time tying loops every 18 or so inches in the string when I use the pole for tomatoes. Beans hang onto the string but tomatoes need to be tied on. Without the loops to run the tie tthrough, the weight of ripening tomatoes accordions the vine to the ground.

I am fairly sure that there are tomatoes growing under the cold frame in the lower right of this picture. I get a little excited by 28 packages of tomatoes. It’s like finding a box of color crayons I have not used in a while. I want to try them all… again.

may-24-2015-4-tomatoes Finding more places to put tomatoes. These potted tomatoes were all my determinant (Mostly Siletz) and cherry tomatoes. They actually did quite well. The Black Cherry on the end was not happy until it started weaving itself through the picket fence. The rest were happy with a tomato cage. We save the big pots from buying fruit trees. Ray remembers buying a few of them. We found out that you can get them for free from the recycle at LOWE’s. The lady at the check stand told us they go fast because the growers of medicinal herb use them for their closet growing operations.

may-31-tomatoes-2 We still needed more space… Ray had some extra fence posts and left-over lattice from another project. We would like the lattice to go all the way to the ground, but this was all we had at the time. The 2×4 at the bottom is where I tied string from the board to the lattice. A girl can only keep track of just so many tent stakes. Tomatoes were also tucked into a ceramic pot (yielded a whole batch of tomato sauce… they really like growing in ceramic!) and in a more decorative SFG in the front yard.

august-13-2014-6 The so called “climate change” warmed up Everett’s chilly summer. Our son Chris kept finding canning jars on sale (he works with nurses, they know lots of good information) to help put them all up.

In a normal Everett Summer, I have to grow tomatoes in the Green House if I want a vine Ripe tomato. We plant them in the green house with basil (another plant that is not a fan of Everett) and had ripe tomatoes to the end of October. (the sad looking header picture shows our tomatoes in October)

august-11-2015-1-tomato Cherry tomatoes only needed to be picked once a week. They were like candy on warm days. They come in every color, yellow, red, blue, orange, even white but they all taste like sweet tomatoes. Imagine that!

The full size tomatoes need to be picked every three or so days. For some reason they go from just a bit too green to over ripe in the blink of an eye. The local wild life keeps an eye on our full size tomatoes but ignore the tangled mess of cherry tomatoes.

Last season, for the first time ever, we could have fried green tomatoes every week in September and not make a dent in the tomato harvest. I can hardly wait to see what this season has in store for us.

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Good by Snow Moon

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Somehow we came to the end of February and the chores are all checked off of my list.

  • Soil Blocks made. I can see broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage sprouting
  • Winter Sowing didn’t get to those, but we did plant artichokes, and parsleys.
  • Fava Beans were the last to go in , but they are in!
  • Potatoes were beyond Chitted, we found our seed potatoes had sprouted.
  • Onions had a hair cut
  • Fruit trees pruned

Just made it! I had to put our yellow potatoes into dirt. There is a huge pot of yellow potatoes in the green house and a tub of potatoes growing just off of the deck. As I write this they are being snowed on. Last hurrah for the Snow Moon.

2february-23-2017-1 Late start on the greenhouse salad because of rat wars. YUCK They are not gone yet, but they seem to be out of the greenhouse. Thanks Ray! If I look closely I can see mixed Asian greens from Botanical Interests. Grab a pack if you ever come across them. They make a lovely spring mix. We like them while they are still tiny. I also see French Breakfast Radish from seed I saved a couple of seasons ago. Still waiting for winter Spinach and Scallions.

2february-23-2017-5 Artichokes and parsley are doing a nice job, Onions have had a hair cut, even the Tarragon has been divided and repotted. I was worried about my Tarragon. I’ve had this plant for as long as we have lived in Everett. If I had to buy a new start it would not be the end of the world. I guess it is a matter of pride that I’ve kept it alive and fresh all this time. Wa-hoo Creation!

2february-232017-3 Outside, under our kitty kover, the garlic and shallots are doing great! Every time I flip the lid off for the day the scent of the herbs inspires me to make soup. Yes, I see weeds, but they are not ALL weeds It looks like the chamomile is already coming back. I think it liked wintering under the kitty kover.

2february-232017-1It was late when I pressed the last Fava Bean into the chilly loam, but I promise the day was clear and bright when Ray and I went out to putz in the garden. Ray pruned our trees. There is a video but I have not tackled that yet. The new plum is covered with buds. On the espaliered apple tree I think he might have removed as much wood as he left. We still need to tackle the the different cane and vine berries, they are waiting for us. I planted my Fava beans near by that day. Now and then he wanted my opinion on what did I think about what he is cutting. Isn’t he awesome! Look at the beautiful soil under the chips. Sadly, the rows look a little red neck (I r redneck). There are not many open spaces for the dogs to run in the garden. The mini fences and blue bailing twine is to discourage the dogs from running through the new bed of beans.

2february-25-2017-1 Just a hint of whats happening in March, under the Worm Moon. Why Worm Moon? It is going to start warming up enough to make happy worms!

  • Choose your tomato seed
  • Get a bed ready for peas
  • Choose pepper seed
  • Get ready to plant onions
  • Are your early potatoes ready?

Now, Whose going to teach me about Dahlias?

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