The weather has been cooperative North of Seattle so far this year. No overcast and rainy May. No smoke filled skies from wildfires. We’ll start seeing Harvests Of Things in the next 10-14 days, which is right on pace with when it’s been nice outside for most of the summer.
An overview pic from the “front”. The camera is pointed mostly East, slightly North:
That’s tomatoes on the left, peppers in the center, and basil on the right. On the back left are the Tromboncino zucchini, on the right are cucumbers, and behind the cucumbers are pole beans.
The first cucumbers are nearly ready:
We had a day in the 100’s recently. The basil absolutely loves that, though I’m guessing concrete and the garden area must have been over 110 degrees:
Last year we made a big bag of “Italian Seasoning” with oregano from our raised beds and the basil. I see another big bag or two in our future.
I originally posted about the A-frame style trellises in 2014. The external links on that post are dead now, so today’s post includes an update with a few close-ups and explanations of the details of construction.
First the improvised Ultomato trellis:
I’m hoping this is a more stable answer than putting the stakes directly into the boxes — almost every year at least one pepper box has toppled over on a windy day when the plants are heavy with fruit.
This was done with 60″ Ultomato stakes and held together with cable ties. It barely covers two 30″ EarthBoxes lengthwise. The commonly available 48″ stakes would work too, but would only cover one box. The “X’s” at the ends are 24″ wide.
I built this by myself, though an extra set of hands would have been very helpful, especially in the early stages. I wound up creating both “X’s”, then leaning one against a wall and loosely attaching the cross-pieces to the “X” leaning against the wall, then attaching cross-pieces to the “free end” I was holding up. Then I again tightened all the ties once it was standing on its own. It all fell over a few times but eventually it cooperated.
The cross pieces pictured below are separated by 12″, which is the length of the Ultomato clips:
By mid-season the garden should look something like:
We’re trying something new this year — eggplants. (All plant descriptions are by Seattle Tilth unless otherwise noted. My additional “Ed” notes are in italics.)
2 Black Beauty Eggplant, 1 box. (partial Bonnie Plants description): Plants produce pretty, prolific harvests in warm weather—keep them well-watered and harvest often. Pick the fruit before the glossy, dark skin begins to fade. (The color and glossiness of the eggplant determine the best time to harvest, rather than the fruit’s size.) Grows beautifully in garden beds or containers. Add a cage to your eggplant to help support stems when heavy with fruit. Place in full sun, and feed regularly. Matures in 80 days.
4 “Marketmore” Cucumbers, 1 box.(Ed: I’m not sure what exact variety these are. Historically we’ve grown)Marketmore 76 – 63 days. Open pollinated. In the Marketmore series, ‘Marketmore 76’ is very popular with organic growers due to its high level of disease resistance. This dark green slicing variety produces abundant, high quality, uniform fruits about 8 inches long with a wonderful cucumber flavor.
The weather has been unusually warm so the arugula decided it was time to bolt. We enjoy arugula on pizzas and in salads. Friday night was a pizza / flatbread with blue cheese, arugula, pine nuts, and thinly sliced steak. What I thought was more interesting was Monday’s Pizza Pinwheels:
We served these with a red sauce made from last year’s tomatoes. The dough recipe is very easy:
300 grams AP flour, 50 grams greek honey yogurt, 165 grams water, 6 grams kosher salt, and 1 tsp instant yeast. Let the dough rise for an hour and do one or two stretch and folds (optional). Let the dough rise for another two hours. Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll the dough out thinly into a rectangle about 12″ x 8″. Sprinkle on chopped pepperoni, shredded mozzarella, and any other finely chopped herbs/aromatics that you like. (Don’t go overboard on fillings because it still needs to be able to roll up. ) Roll up the dough so that you have a tube 12″ long. Cut into 3/4″ to 1″ pieces and place on parchment or a Silpat. Bake for 15-20 minutes rotating the tray halfway through baking.
In the 1970’s my family had one of those dome popcorn poppers that used oil, very similar to this one:
The oil went in the bottom, the popcorn kernels went in with the oil, the machine would get hot, then my mom would shake it vigorously while it was full of dangerously hot oil… welcome to the 70’s…
Then in 1980-82 we got one of these:
It’s a West Bend Poppery II. The top part of the lid functions as a measuring device for the popcorn and it can be used to melt butter while the popcorn is popping. Very clever. It pops popcorn start to finish in around three minutes. I’m not sure how that compares to microwave popcorn, but it has to be similar.
Most years I look at the calendar and say: “I should have started the salad greens two or three weeks ago.” This year I took all of the potential seed packets, picked the things we were most excited about (or the oldest packets regardless), and started the cool-weather greens indoors on January 25th.
Generally that would be fine. The coastal Pacific Northwest has mostly mild Springs, and the seedlings can go outside in February after they’ve been hardened off for a few days. Last week the seedlings forced the issue because they were outgrowing the lighting rig. This coincided with snow in the forecast, so we brought the cold frame out of the back yard and placed it on the sunniest place on the property — along the edge of the front walkway tucked up next to the salad table. We added row cover over the top of the salad table as well to protect the newly transplanted arugula (the row cover is not pictured):
That’s Miner’s Lettuce on the bottom level of the salad table and all around the nearby pots. It’s Northwest Native, high in vitamin C, makes a nice salad base, and it’s been re-seeding itself the last few years. I’m now trying it in other places around the side and back yards to see if it’ll grow there too. The cold frame has Super Sugar Snap peas, some lettuces, dill, and cilantro.
We got more than 6 inches of snow on Thursday and Friday. I’d include a current picture but it’d look like “A Polar Bear In A Snowstorm” — the top of the snow is almost level with the top of the front of the cold frame.
We’d purchased the cold frame a few years ago at a home and garden show, with the thought that we could grow cool weather greens in the back yard with the assistance. Unfortunately the micro climate in the back yard isn’t suitable for spring gardening — the sun level is too low in the horizon so the (East-NorthEast facing) back yard stays frosty well after the front yard warms up. We wouldn’t want to have it partially blocking the front walkway all the time, so the cold frame has mostly been idle the last few years.
But it’s nice to finally use it the cold frame again. The snow has started up again as I write this. Bringing the cold frame to the sunny part of the yard may become an annual Spring tradition.
My desk at work is near the kitchen/breakroom. I think some people working from home can relate to that. There are all kinds of available goodies and it can be hard not to get up and go to the breakroom for a treat. Repeatedly. I’d imagine people working at home might be able to relate to that too.
I’ve sort-of-tried to lose some weight for four years now, and I’m right about where I started in January 2017. I’m not at a really unhealthy weight, but I think I’d be healthier if I were lighter. The biggest issues for me have been the breakroom food, regular food, “calorie laden adult beverages”, and the fact that I’m never excited about “working out”. That, and a general lack of self-control when it comes to stuffing my face sometimes. And I enjoy good, rich food.
Given that I’m spending about half my waking hours at work I thought it would be a good start to limit my excess calorie intake when I’m there. Ideally the “don’t eat junk food” reminder could be something visual that I’d see every time I went to grab a quick snack, and it would gamify dropping weight. So — The Poker Chip Diet:
The Joy of Cooking 75th Anniversary Gingerbread House recipe. I chose this recipe because it seemed to be the simplest dough, or, at least the dough that was the most similar to something that I was familiar with. I treated the house-pieces as crackers and I think that “grounding” helped.
The dough recipe begins with 1 cup (2 sticks) butter melted over low heat. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup unsulfured molasses and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let cool to lukewarm.
In a large bowl whisk together 4-1/2 cups AP flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, and (I left these out) 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Make a well in the center and mix in the wet ingredients. Add another 1/2 cup AP flour until the dough pulls away from the bowl. Knead on the counter a few times, wrap in plastic, and move to the refrigerator to fully cool for up to 3 days. I removed the dough from the refrigerator 1 hour before rolling out — I’d suggest allowing 3-4 hours for the dough to come to room temperature instead.
Note: I found this dough too grainy and loose to knead, so I added a couple of tablespoons of water. Interestingly, the recipe thinks the dough may already be too wet and calls for adding more flour if needed…
Last night was pumpkin carving. We brought along a pumpkin-shaped cheesy bread:
It’s almost as large as a sheet tray and easy to make. The recipe is basically just two generic pizza doughs: 700g bread (or AP) flour, 440g water (63% hyrdration), 14g kosher salt, 2 tsp instant yeast.