Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sam and Lily...

..BFF's forever.

Things are Growing..

As we hurtle towards May, the sky is still opening up and drenching us with steady rainfall. I'm getting antsy to be outside and sit in my beautiful new garden, but the weather just isn't cooperating!! I know, I know, I'm far from the only person who feels this way and I know the rain won't last forever, but jeez! A spanking-new garden and all I can do is hide in the greenhouse or stare wistfully outside from the office window.
With that being said, my plants haven't minded the weather at all. In fact, they've enjoyed the fickle Spring weather immensely. The brief, glorious bits of sunshine when mixed with intermittent showers are the perfect conditions for my blueberry bushes and raspberry canes. My new shade garden is reaching out and up everyday and it seems that new life appears overnight in the greenhouse!
Now, an update!
Seabright Hosta Nursery's greenhouse. Matt and I went a couple of weeks ago and I picked up most of the shade plants for the garden under the bay tree. I've never seen so many different kinds of hosta all in the same place! I marveled at the different sizes, colors, and shapes.

They also have some wonderful display gardens that were just starting to come awake when we visited. The gazebo...

Hostas just starting to emerge...

Matt was very impressed with this "dinosaur plant". Very primordial looking...

And here's my loot! We had lots of fun reading all the fabulous hosta names and choosing the different colors. I won't list them all, but the highlights were: King Tut, Moonstruck, Green Eyes, Captain Kirk, and X-Rated!

Here's the finished effect. The hostas, ferns, and heuchera combine to make a very pretty, whimsical garden under the shade tree. The stones were on the property already; we just had to strategically place them.

Another project that was completed recently: electricity in the chicken coop and greenhouse! During Dad's stay in Silverton, he was nice enough to wire both with plugs. No more extension cords from the garage, YAY!
Two plugs in the chicken coop...

...and four plugs in the greenhouse!

Oh, the possibilities are now endless! I've already saved tons of money growing my own seeds instead of buying plant flats. And, it's been awesome seeing the progression. I mean, you buy potting soil, spend hours filling trays with seeds, then you wait. And wait. And wait. You agonize whether you potted them too deep or too shallow. Are you watering too much or not enough?? see bulges and cracks in the soil where it used to be smooth. Then, the smallest bit of green shows through and tiny shoots struggle towards the sun. You go from fretting to relief to being overwhelmed. Suddenly, you realize that you have twenty pots of snap pea shoots with two seeds each pot and they've ALL sprouted! What the heck are you going to do with forty snap pea vines?!? And the bush beans and the cucumbers and the salad and the tomatoes- all going crazy!
The answer to this dilemma?? Trade, baby! So far, Neighbor Bob is going to rototill my front dirt patch for a few snap peas and Alexandra is going to help me build a strawberry pyramid for some greenhouse space and some cucumbers. Also, they make a great substitute for cut flowers as a hostess gift (which is what I did for Matt's mother when invited over for Easter dinner).
Anyway, here's what I'm talking about:
Tomato shoots...

Snap peas...

Salad mix...

Cilantro, parsley, leeks, and basil...

Burpless cucumbers, pickling gherkins, and strawberries...

...more strawberries from Gardenpalooza...

...and two kinds of bush beans. I'll need a lot of these to enable my canning addiction. Mine, mine!

So, life flourishes at my house right now. Sipping a mimosa while swinging in my hammock...not quite yet.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More Garden Work

Progress, progress!! I have Spring Fever and want it all now!!
Ha, I know that's not going to happen. Time and money (the usual suspects) are always a limitation, but progress has been moving forward over the last two weeks.
Here are the beginnings of some new garden supports! Matt and I made a trip to Wilco and got some wooden posts for clematis, veggie, and berry supports. I already had the chicken wire, so it was a relatively low-cost project.

Matt hammering the chicken wire with metal staples.

The finished product! Destined for cucumbers and snap peas, which are already getting started in the greenhouse...

Here's the finished clematis support. I'm sure this vine is happy to finally be in the ground after about seven months in a gallon pot!

Seed potatoes I got during our Wilco trip! I got Russets, Reds, and Yukon Golds. They are in trays, happily sprouting in the greenhouse. Then, I'll cut them up, wait a week for them to scab over, then plant the sections in my raised beds.

Here are the snap peas and bush beans in the greenhouse. Hopefully, the greenhouse will be equipped with new grow lights this week to aid germination.

My salad is coming up! I took this picture about a week ago and since then, this flat of greens has been going gangbusters! In fact, I'll probably have to thin them out!

I also made a hanging basket with all the primroses I got from Jan and Suellen.

Here's a red seedless grape vine that Matt picked out at Wilco. I still have to decide where I'll put it, since grapes can grow up to be humongous!

I potted up the columnar apples I got at Gardenpalooza. One red type apple and one green type apple. At maturity (even though they're dwarf apples), these trees can produce up to 50 apples each! I'm hoping the bee hive living in the abandoned house on the corner finds these irresistible!

I got the climbing hydrangea in the ground..

As well as the blueberries. These poor blueberry bushes have been through so much over the past two years. They've come a long way from my rental and survived some very cold nights in their pots before finally being interred here. No more moving for these plants- we're finally home!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Now for the Fun Part

Now that the bones of the garden are in place, it's time to start thinking about plants! This weekend was Gardenpalooza in Canby and I was able to go for the third year in a row. We had great weather for plant buying- sunny, warm(ish), with only a brief sprinkle as we started to leave. I got lots of wonderful ferns for my shade garden along with rhubarb and two strawberry bundles along with a couple of very sturdy tomato cages.
Some of the plants layed out under the bay tree.

After Gardenpalooza, Mom and I stopped by the iron works place on our way home. We had been there before and I'd regretted not getting a few things I saw last time. One was this beautiful spire support. I'm not sure what I'll plant under it yet, but I'm thinking maybe snap peas?

The other item was a pot rack- finally!! I saw one, but needed to make a few modifications for it to fit in my kitchen's low ceilings. They're custom making it for me and it should be ready within the next few weeks. Yay! No more banging my head on pots! Now, I just need someone to hang it for me...
Anyway, the next day, I got a major energy burst and decided to clean out and organize the garage, clean out and organize the greenhouse, and make up a whole bunch of plant starts, all in between making four loaves of sourdough bread.
Here are all the flats I put together yesterday:
Three kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of cucumber, two kinds of salad mix, leeks, cilantro, and parsley. I also potted up some trumpet lily bulbs I got at Gardenpalooza last year as well as the strawberry bundles and rhubarb.

Yeah....I'm a little sore today.

The Mystery of Bread

Sourdough and I have a long, unhappy history. As I've moved into my new life as someone who gardens, cans, has her own egg supply, and makes her own yarn, I've always thought I should be able to make my own bread. I mean, how hard can it be, right?! It's only flour and water and salt...
They key to making a killer loaf of bread is ALL about timing and details. I tried while in college with the basic yeast recipe out of a cook book and those were ok, but not great. I tried again while living in LA with sourdough starter I got in Alaska and that was a complete disaster. The loaves turned out hard as a rock and flavorless.
I had pretty much given up and labeled myself as someone who just can't make bread, then Linda brought me some sourdough starter. At first, I was excited to be given a gift so full of potential- barm is certainly the gift that keeps on giving! Then, I remembered all the times before I had tried. Tried and FAILED, epically. But, the more I thought about it, the more determined I became to give it one more shot. Several things influenced my decision to try again. One, I now have a Kitchen Aid mixer, which I didn't have before. Two, Linda's starter was an old one; it had already proven itself time and time again and should have lots of good flavor already built up. Three, I still had my baking stone and all the equipment (on which I had spent a considerable amount of money, which also contributed to my frustration when I ended up making hockey puck bread). Four, I now had Mom's support since I halved the starter with her.
So, I put my pride on a shelf and tried again.
First, I tried a recipe out of a sourdough starter envelope, thinking it would be more straight forward than my Baker's Apprentice Bread Cookbook (which is more like a cooking school textbook). It was easier, but didn't really give me the results I wanted. No shortcuts here!
Behold the result:

Obviously, I needed more practice...

A week later, Mom came down for the weekend and we each made dough out of the split starter. For a week, we had been feeding it independently and were curious if that would make a difference in the finished loaves.
Our two starter bags:

Creating the finished dough...

Here are Mom's proofed loaves, ready to go into the oven. Jan said the batard looked more like a...well, never tasted just fine.

And here are my finished loaves after my second attempt. We followed the convoluted instructions of the Bread Apprentice Cookbook to the letter and, I must admit, the result was much improved. It was slightly crunchy on the outside, moist and light on the inside, and tasted great with softened butter.

This is only the beginning, but I feel success within my reach...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cherry City Roller Derby!

Warming up...

Lining up for a Jam...

Bill and Lugene enjoying the action...

My Project Wish List

Last month, Jan, Neil, Matt, and I went to the Garden and Patio show in Portland and I saw some things that I absolutely loved. I took lots of pictures, but these three rose to the surface as easy projects that would make a big impact. Now that my garden's basic structure is finished, I can start thinking about adding finishing touches.
This tall post would double as string light anchor and bird feeder station. I already have several seed feeders and hummingbird feeders that would look great on something like this. I also have a mason bee house that needs occupants!

I've been seeing these more and more in magazines. "Live" art is a growing sensation and I have so much fence surface area that I could easily tuck in a few of these frames around. Once established, the succulents are low maintenance and drought resistant. Perfect wall art!

This raised planter is light enough to move easily, but sturdy enough to stand up to inclement weather. I would love to have something like this right outside the kitchen, under the windows, to hold kitchen herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, and other culinary plants that I use frequently. That way, their permanency wouldn't take up room in my raised beds. Maybe I could even fit in some salad mix....

What do you think???

New Additions

We have some new additions to the Andersen Household- Silverton Location! Matt moved into a new apartment and has left his cat Samuel with me until he gets settled in. Here's Sam acquainting himself with his new digs... chicks!! Here we are getting the coop ready for new additions. Cleo, of course, supervised...

Unfortunately, we had a very sad loss at our house after the new year. Red became egg-bound and passed away before we could get her to the vet. It was very sad, since she had lots of personality and was one of my best layers. In order to ease the blow a bit, Matt and I went and got six new chicks to add to the flock. Three Barred Rocks and three Welsummers. Here they are one their first day home:

Here they are after a few weeks. I forgot how fast chicks grow! They get feathers and dinosaur feet before you can look twice.

And here they are in their new Condo. It's really a raised wooden planter, but works great as a tween half-way house for young birds. They're already outside in the coop with a couple of heat lamps. They are enjoying the extra room and growing like gangbusters!