Tag Archives: Green Beans

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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Filed under Back to Eden Garden, Fresh from the garden, Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm

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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Mid September

Black Garbanzo beans ready to finish.

Spent Sabbath in the garden. Putzing about. I feel so refreshed and ready to face another week of Junior High (and my beloved home-schoolers). What is it about dirt in my finger nails that is so relaxing? We ate a simple meal of boiled red potatoes, beans (Ray wanted his raw, I dropped mine in with the potatoes for a couple of minutes), sliced cucumber and tomatoes. All of them were growing in the garden 10 minutes earlier. Turkey and that earthy Trader Joe’s french bread finished the meal. There might have been a glass of wine at some point. It could have been the latest Merlot from Red Rock.

Todays Harvest

Some things cannot be rushed. Farm life is all about patience with just the right amount of hurry. I have been waiting all year for my cipolini onions (some call them donut onions) to be ready to harvest. September 14th was finally the day. Now I wait again as they cure in the crisp fall air. Hopefully it won’t be in a heap on the porch.

All week we have been pulling ears of corn and skipping dessert. Fresh sweet corn IS a food group that covers dinner and dessert. We could not wait any longer. The bulk of the harvest had to be put into the freezer before it wandered past its prime. I wish I could grow ten times as much sweet corn as I have room for. I keep eyeing my HOA contract while looking at all that open space in my front yard. Someday desire will be stronger than the contract.

After the Harvest…..

The corn stalks are bundled and standing behind the green house for fall decorations. The two flint corn need to dry on the stalks. Both are heirlooms. Painted Mountain is a multi color corn from Uprising Seed and Hooker’s from a homestead in Olympia Washington.
Thank you for praying for Maxwell. He is home from the hospital. Is this what an Indian summer feels like? Deep blue sky, 72/52. Sunrise comes late (and Standard Time is still a few days away) at 6:48 AM, setting 13 hours and 29 minutes later at 7:17 PM. The fire that is raging in the Cascades makes a pretty sunrise. Still I hate that fire….Liberty, Washington has been evacuated!

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Filed under Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm, Video

Putting the strawberry bed to bed

There is a little more here than garden maintainance. You will get a brief overview of harvesting chamomile, strawberry-tarragon spa-water, starting new strawberry plants and a little showing off of my puppies.

Just in time for summer

Finally, we have some heat! 88/61 some clouds and 10% chance of rain were on the weather menu but I’m not seeing it. It might explain the humidity. The beautiful sunrise was at 5:51 followed by 14 hours and 46 minutes of real summer. It sets at 8:37.

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Cold, cold July (until today)

The Toy Box

Suburban Farm Episode #25 (Season 3)

I have no idea why or how you-tube chooses a cover picture. This looks liked my pumpkin vine growing outside of the fence. By the way, I did finally get my lawn mown. Sorry about the mess.

Is that a dragon fly sitting on my corn?

Today was warmer outside than it was inside, we have not had many days like that. Blue sky, 75/57 sunrise at 5:37, 15 hours and 15 minutes later the sun set at 8:52. I am missing my late walks with the dogs.

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Filed under Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm, Video

First Green Bean of 2012

First Green Bean of 2012: Provider from Uprising Seeds

The Garden seems to be in a transition. Not many peas are left, salad greens are bolting, and the mustards are long gone. The first tomato has arrived (See, Tomato Taste Test 2012), but it is too cold for the tomatoes that have colored out to have flavor.

I was just out looking for ingredients to add to Sumgullian (I have no idea how to spell or even pronounce that dish). Ray’s mom used to make it with cubed bologna, potatoes and whatever else was in the pantry as far as I can tell. Ray always makes it a couple of times in winter and at deer or elk camp with the boys. I don’t like hot bologna. Just the smell of it makes me gage. The boys always thought dad was secretly feeding them junk food that mom would not approve of BUT I actually kind of like it if it is made with smoked sausage, fresh veggies and if the potatoes are fried until they are golden.

Gold Nugget Cherry Tomatoes, still coloring out, still too cold to have flavor.

I found plenty of snap peas, broccoli side shoots, parsley, kale (Italian, Russian and Chinese). All of these will be good in tonight’s dish. But the prize was the lone green bean. I like it, I love it, I want more of it!


61/52….how is that for a high and low today? The weather is coming out of the south, usually that warms things up but not this time. Overcast with 50% chance of rain. All together gloomy.

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Filed under Fresh from the garden, Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm