Tag Archives: Leeks

Every season starts with onions

1january-21-2017-2 Tiny onion sprouts. I need to look closely at the container of dirt on the window sill. The morning that they suddenly show themselves my new garden has begun. I am a long way from onion rings or soup, but hope spring up with the onion sprouts.

It is almost obscene how many stony black seeds will be sprinkled on the plastic container of soil. In January I do not need to worry about where I will plant, or what I will do when I discover that I have far too many babies to find homes for. My eagerness to get dirty overcomes any good sense that may have been passed on to me. I will worry about that later. Today I just want to plant something.

1january-21-2017-7-onion-seed Just in case you wonder (and the video titles roll by too fast)

  • Cipollini: a small speciality onion that Ray loves in a roast. The right balance of sweet and pungent. Even these tiny bulbs need a full season.
  • Italian Tropea: or Red Torpedos as most Americans call them. These are somewhat sweet, purple to pink summer onions. They can be used at nearly any stage… and should be since they do not store well. We start using the biggest torpedo in the onion patch about mid June (really they will still be scallion like) and continue to use them until late September when they can get to the size of a small nerf football. Beautiful!
  • Ailsa Craig: A huge sweet onion that we put in everything from Late September to mid November. They are good enough to give as gifts. I no longer bother much with Walla Walla’s AC’s are so good (and do not need to be started in September for best size!) No real store-ability, eat them fast, eat them often.
  • New York Early: The very first storage onion I have had success with (in wet Western Washington) I’ll stick with what works. In a good year we have had New Yorks into March.
  • Ed’s Red Shallots: I do plant cloves of shallots in the fall, but these shallots grown from seed are just as amazing!
  • Leeks: This year they are the Italian Gigantia. Just when your storage onions get scarce, it is time for the garlic of the onion family… make sure you cover them in fall with straw and leaves so that you can still pick them with out a pick-ax from the frozen ground.

That’s it… here’s the 2017 Movie.

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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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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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Last weekend of January

January 30, 2016 (2)
January was good for a weekend farmer, bring on February.

Actually it is nice to only have to sweat over my journal. This last weekend in January is cold. Not back east cold, but I’m not back east. It has been raining buckets. The ground is squishy and the chicken run, usually low maintenance with a thick layer of straw to turn into spring compost, stinks because of the mild weather and rain. I’m going to need to take care of that well before spring. Fava beans are here and waiting for the crocus to show, broccoli, cauliflower and peas are all ready to plant!

From the Winter Garden

January 29, 2016 (2)

Flowering Brussels Sprouts a.k.a Kalette

Did I mention that the local gang of thug deer have been eating my winter crops? They knocked down an artichoke and topped all of the leeks. Not a huge deal, but it still gets my goat!

Those spicy winter greens have been growing in the mild PNW. A good poppy-seed-balsamic dressing seems perfect for their winter heat.

We have kalette… now what? The seed was very expensive and it took forever to grow. Now I need to do something with it. Any ideas?

January 29, 2016 (4) Garlic on purpose! I do not remember what happened in 2014. School I think. But if it had not been for forgotten, unharvested garlic, left in the ground, there would not have been any garlic for 2015. It got planted on purpose and I have neat rows of our favorite seasoning for 2016. Whoo-hoo!

In the Green House

January 29, 2016 (8) It is starting to look like a sanctuary again. It also smells better. No matter what the weather, Ray’s potting bench is pleasant to work at. The weather has been so mild that the onions are already living in the greenhouse. Every day I make at least two trips out there to carry the chamomilelobelia, and alyssum out and back in again at night. I grow most of my chamomile as winter sown plants, but I thought I’d try some on the heat mat… no difference, might as well save some energy and winter sow them.

January 29, 2016 (5) The onions are ready for their first hair cut. They look cute with their little black seed caps but if they are cut (a little less then half… do not go below any visible brackets) then they put more energy into girth rather then height. Trust me, they will do more then survive if you trim them back. Thicker onions are easier to transplant then threads.

January 29, 2016 (7) This pot of tarragon is about the perfect size to divide into more plants. I just need to collect and wash the pots they will go into. Like mint, tarragon spreads underground. It is not as aggressive as mint and it will not survive really cold temperatures. About April there will be a handful of stone pots filled with graceful boughs of licorice scented tarragon. What happens to it after that is up to me… or you if you happen to get one of them.

January 29, 2016 (6) Every year I worry that the seed that I have saved is not going to do well. Seed companies always talk about superior viability. I don’t know what makes them superior. All I know is that the pods of seed heads that I leave in the greenhouse to finish drying before I thresh them always do well for us. This is the little greenhouse bed I planted earlier in January. The French Breakfast radishes and the red (beaujolais) spinach from seed that I saved shot right up. I’ll take it! By the way, that is not mildew or mold on the bed, it is slug bait.

January 30, 2016 weather The farm is still looking seriously bleak. We have our bright spots and tend to focus on them but April-May still seems like a long way away.  After the “River of Rain” that invaded Everett, we have already had to empty the rain gauge. On this last weekend of January we have measured about 7.5-inches of rain and 0 of snow. Very unusual. The Almighty bless you!

 

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What’s a farmer supposed to do on Rainy Days?

I’ve be waiting for a rainy day to get my starts going.

2014 in the greenhouse

2014 in the greenhouse

Late February, and I’m starting….

  • Artichokes (usually winter sown, so I’m crossing my fingers)
  • Parsley, both curly and Italian
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Onions, Italian Torpedo, Cipollini (need to buy more yellow storage: New York Early)
  • Salad, (we have a lot to choose from!)
  • Leeks and Shallots
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Maybe a few peas in soil blocks instead of pots.

That’s what springs to my mind, what are you planing to start indoors this month?

Robins have returned to Everett, WA

Robins have returned to Everett, WA

Every grove of trees in Everett is alive with returning robins arguing over the best camping spot until they can get a permanent nest built. They will be building those nests in the rain today, Friday, February 20, 2015. The chill in the air probably means the rain will soon be replaced by blue sky, but today the forecast is at 70% chance of rain, 51/39 Sunrise at 7:06, Sunset at 5:39 giving us 10 hours and 33 minutes of wet daylight!

 

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Season 5 Begins

Season 5 begins.

Season 5 begins.

2014 at the Toy Box Sub-Urban Farm began with a whisper of snow. Creation is encouraging me to rest a while longer. The Snow Moon has faded into darkness, the Worm Moon is a waxing crescent glow somewhere beyond the clouds. No one told the storm that the time for snow was gone. Even so, the clock in my heart is ready to experience the scent of dirt, the kiss of the breeze and fresh green seedlings.

Greens, parsley and onions

Greens, parsley and onions

While the days were still short I started vegetables on a heat mat in the kitchen before moving them to our little greenhouse. Onions and leeks, artichokes and salad greens are all defying the winter chill. Broccolis, cauliflowers (the season 5 challenge) and more salad greens were started in soil blocks. Each of them have their 2nd sets of leaves. I worried that they were in the kitchen too long. Each variety has different sprout times. Since they were all in one flat, some became “leggy” in the kitchen window while waiting for their cousins to wake up. I am happy to report that after a month in the green house I have not lost any to weak stems (so far). I do not use grow lights, a luxury I have in the Pacific North West. We are famous for our rain but those clouds keep our winter nights mild.

Have you ever scene a rhubarb root?

Have you ever seen a rhubarb root?

There is more to season 5 then green house plants. One of the SFG (Square Foot Garden) has fragrant garlic and shallots coming up under a poly cover. A brand new rhubarb is sending up the first amber leaves in the front SFG. Peas and fava beans have already been pressed into the ground in other gardens. Because I am a belt and suspender gal, there is a back-up tray of peas planted in soil cubes in the green house, just in case some critter feasts on fresh pea sprouts growing unprotected outside. My fear of critter feasts are not strictly imaginary. All our kale and over winter broccoli have been eaten down to stumps. I suspect raccoons.

Herbs in the green house; Tarragon make a comeback.

Herbs in the green house; Tarragon make a comeback.

The fruit trees and blueberries are being moved to the front garden. Inspired by Back to Eden, Ray has built a boarder and is filling it with chipped wood for a perma-culture food forest (forest may be a stretch, it is more of an alley). My plan is to put the artichokes in this garden while the fruit trees, a multi-cherry, a multi-pear and an Orcus Pear, are still small. I am hopeful that there will be room for the pie cherries I would like to add to my dream of an orchard-forest.

The Pantry and Freezer are still comfortably full but I sure am looking forward to the first salad of baby greens.

Bomber and nuggets, Lil'bit, Stella and Birtha

Bomber and nuggets, Lil’bit, Stella and Bertha

March 6, 2014, Everett, Washington Showers turning to rain (do they say that anywhere else?) We are under a flood watch. The Toy Box Suburban Farm sits high on a bluff far from the river, even so, the ground is a squishy sponge.  A high of 56 F and a comfortable low of 47 F. Steady SSE wind of 10 mph gusting to 20 mph. More of the same for the rest of the week. 11 hours, 18 minutes of daylight (rise 6:41 AM, set 5:59 PM)

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The Snow Moon

Dull day, bright crocus. The yellows are already done.

Dull day, bright crocus. The yellows are already done.

Known as Adar in Hebrew, this last moon cycle allows impatient souls like me to begin the transition into the coming growing season. It is the time to be thankful for what was tucked into the pantry and freezer last season, a time for fresh appreciation of hardy vegetables that overwinter in the garden. The hens lay their eggs again. The grass is growing but the rain is too constant to mow. Daffodils and crocus renew my hope that spring will come again.

Top shelf veggies. Spring greens and 4 kinds of onions.

Top shelf veggies. Spring greens and 4 kinds of onions.

In the new greenhouse skinny little onions are just starting to get stocky. Water from the fish tank is all they need to grow straight and strong. My spring potatoes are chitting on a lower shelf. I have noticed that the tray of greens growing by the onions has a few no-shows. My favorite lettuce, Flashy Trout’s Back, did not sprout. Neither did the Australian Yellow. Both are from seed packets that were bought in the first season of the Toy Box. Only a few spinach, red and fordhook, have sprouted but spinach is always slow. But the Flashy Trout’s Back! Insisting that Ray take me downtown (Everett) to the Natural Food Co-op, the only local place I know of for Uprising Seed, I bought a fresh packet of Flashy Trout, but there was no Australian Yellow to be found on that small rack. Instead I bought a packet of butter head with a seductive description of silky leaves wrapped around a buttery, crisp heart. If I follow the moon phases then these will get a start when the next moon, The Worm Moon, is still dark.

Potatoes Just when I begin to wonder if I bought potatoes that have been treated to not sprout, I notice the first bit of tiny green swellings in the eyes. I need to remind myself that even old farmers don’t know everything. Patience is called for. It is still too early to plant even though this new practice of chitting starts so early in the season. Maybe it is just to give me something to do while I wait for spring to properly arrive.

Winter Sown purple cone flower

Winter Sown purple cone flower

No progress in the winter-sown containers. Even the sweet peas are still asleep.

In the garden the first 4×8 box has been planted with an abundance of all kinds of peas, fava beans too. They went in under the increasing light of the 2nd quarter of the moon before it became full. There is a row of squares that I plan to plant with carrots in this 3rd quarter, while the moonlight is still strong but daily waning.

Leeks, Celeraic, parsley, chard, kale and a bit of fennel.

Leeks, Celeraic, parsley, chard, kale and a bit of fennel.

Spring eggs are here! They smell amazing in the morning. Just in time for spring eggs, parsley and chives put out tender green shoots. Winter food gets a fresh taste with hardy kale, fat leeks, celeriac and the last of the winter carrots growing in the garden. Occasionally a bit of precious green garlic finds its way to the table. Tiny baby fennel adds a sweet licorice flavor when there isn’t any basil. There are even a few small potatoes volunteering in the old potato patch.

-I want to start a batch of wild yeast for biscuits. I have so much jelly to use before summer. Should be perfect with green omelets (from all the spring herbs!) Sourdough starter is one of those low maintenance, high return projects that should be perfect for a farmer with a day job.

Fixen what the wind blew down.

Fixen what the wind blew down.

March came roaring in on the South Wind. Had a few repairs to make in the morning. Saturday, March 2; how can the sky be as gray as Rays sweater but the sun still be shinning through? It is a blustery day, rain, shine and back to rain again. 55 to 60 degrees today and back down to the upper 30’s tonight. Sunrise at 6:47, setting 11 hours and 8 minutes later at 5:55. Fantastic!

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