Category Archives: Garden

Reed Trustees Decision on Divestment expected May 2014

A few weeks ago Fossil Free Reed met with the Board of Trustees. Thank you so much to those who were able to attend or sign the petition — your interest and engagement with this issue is almost as important as our actual investments. Demonstrating that this is an issue you care about is crucial if we want the Trustees to take this seriously.

The meeting was a big success. The four trustees who composed the ad hoc committee on divestment brought to us the major questions which concerned the Board in their evaluation of divestment.

While the campaign has had a few opportunities to share their positions on these questions, it was valuable to include more of your voices in the conversation.

We stand by our commitment that divestment from fossil fuel industry is warranted under the conditions set out in Article III of our Investment Responsibility Policy, and that logistical difficulties should not constitute a prohibitive obstacle to divestment. Furthermore, a wealth of financial research suggests that fossil free investments outperform broadly diversified portfolios. Divestment is necessary to bring Reed College in line with its own values and policies and does not constitute a threat to the College’s operating budget.

The Trustees promised to make a public announcement regarding their decision on divestment before the end of the semester, which means we can expect to hear from them any day now. We are truly eager to move forward in the process of making Reed an institution that can stand up for its principles. I am particularly excited to continue conversations about the criteria Reed should use as ethical standards of investment.

With love and rage, for justice,
Happy summer everyone,

Austin Weisgrau
&& Fossil Free Reed

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Spring Herb Spiral Dreams

Spring Herb Spiral Dreams

Please enjoy this picture of the lovely mulched herb spiral, and go on get ye down to sniff at it.

Know that there are multitudinous herbs growing – mint, thyme, fennel, garlic greens, onion greens, red raspberry leaves, rosemary, lavendar – and that it would behoove your body and soul to make tea of them. Behoove.

Tis a good time for planting. Come all ye with desires to grow – there is budget and soil, compost and mulch aplenty. Serious tho – any possible thing – we can do it. Hands – we need your delicate, booky hands. Save your receipts when you buy stuff and get them to me. Hit up this list with ideas or if you want help on a project.

Ideas:
-chromatic flower beds
-a mint/fennel/hop/passionflower/lemonbalm transformation of the grassy slope behind the lower garden…with shrubs along the bottom of that slope

Today we:
-tied up the raspberries
-planted new flats of carrots & stuff
-put more leafy greens in the ground
-weeded, composted and mulched most of the herb spiral
-fell in love

Here are some dreams, let’s sublimate them into realities:
-family friendly community day in the garden on Saturday 5/11, after reading week
-bbq & party in the garden Thursday of reading week

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April 20, 2014 · 6:22 pm

Everyone Likes Volunteers (especially edible ones)

I’m not promoting the cannibalism of our much-loved people shaped volunteers! There are some tasty plant volunteers popping up in the garden. Here’s a few:

Borage (a.k.a Starflower)

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A beautiful and prolific plant that attracts beneficial insects. Bees love it! The flowers are edible and the taste reminds me of cucumbers.

Arugula

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Long and leggy supermodel arugula plants with lovely white flowers are popping up everywhere in the lower raised beds.

Nasturtium

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With a leave style like a lily pad, nasturti-yums have peppery edible leaves and flowers. Pollinators love ’em. The flowers are often orange, yellow and red in color.

Eat up those volunteers! 😉
-Jackie

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Pea Seeds Rejoice!

Axcelle came up with this great idea: when the peas are planted in tires, they are off the gopher radar. The gophers did their seed nomming drive by and didn’t notice the seeds.

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Yessss!

-Jackie

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Gophers ate our Pea Seeds

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After some investigation, a gopher tunnel was discovered in the ground underneath where we planted seeds. Sneaky!

Here is one suggestion for warding off gophers from this article:
Use a repellent. Not as effective as a gopher trap, but worth a shot! In a glass jar mix 1/2 cup of Castor oil, 1 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce and a few drops of peppermint oil with about a cup of water. Shake well to create an emulsion. Dip cotton balls into the mixture and stick the balls into active gopher holes near plants that you want to protect. You can also put the mixture in a spray bottle and mist away.

Another option is dog poop. Use gloves! Also, since most animals are deterred by human scent, we could try the good old technique of dumping diluted human urine around problem areas.

There are poisons available, but be conscious to choose a poison that will not kill an animal that happens to eat the gopher. Safer poisons use a bait laced with anticoagulants (causes gopher to bleed internally).

Whew!

Jackie

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Spiraling Keyhole Mandala and Tire Planters, Oh My!

Austin, Warren and Axcelle have created a beautiful and creative new area of the garden! The spiraling keyhole mandala and curving beds offer more space for planting and less paths. A planter created from tires holds strawberries and gathers more heat for nearby tomato plants. Newspaper and straw were used to mulch and prevent opportunistic plants from growing, and cardboard helps block light from undesirable grass and marks paths.

Currently there strawberries, tomatoes, mint, parsley, chives, sage and more herbs planted. Nearby are mature raspberry plants. We are hoping to add sunflowers, nasturtiums and much more.

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Looking gooood!
-Jackie

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Toughening up those Seedlings

This week we noticed our little seedlings in the greenhouse are ready to make it out into the great outdoors!  Also, in some of our raised beds where we used scattering seeds as a method of distributing plants, some of the seedlings are becoming a little crowded. Below is a little information on handling these garden topics.

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Transplanting  Seedlings
Seeds that are planted too close together need to be thinned out once seedlings get their true leaves, or the 2nd set of leaves. First, thoroughly water the plants. To separate the seedlings use a stick (a pointed stick works well) to push into the ground next to the plant and pry the soil up gently. The most delicate part of a seedling is the stem so use gentle hands or hold onto a leaf. Re-plant seedlings in a new, spacious area. Plant no deeper than where the original soil line was. Water gently and thoroughly.

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Hardening off Seedlings
Direct sun exposure, cold nights and wind can damage or kill tender seedlings that have been started indoors or in a greenhouse. Young plants should be introduced gradually to the outdoor environment. This can be done in a couple of different ways. The following information on hardening off is from Norma Rossel, Quality Assurance Manager for Johnny’s Selected Seeds:

• On a mild day, start with 2-3 hours of sun in a sheltered location.
• Protect seedlings from strong sun, wind, hard rain and cool temperatures.
• Increase exposure to sunlight a few additional hours at a time, but do not allow seedlings to wilt.
• Keep an eye on the weather and listen to the low temperature prediction. If temperatures below the crop’s minimum are forecast, bring the plants back into the greenhouse or cover with a cold frame.
• Know the relative hardiness of various crops. Onions and brassicas (i.e. cabbage, broccoli, etc.) are hardy and can take temperatures in the 40’s. After they are well hardened off, light frosts won’t hurt them. Warm-season crops such as eggplants, melons and cukes prefer warm nights, at least 60° F. They can’t stand below-freezing temperatures, even after hardening off
• Gradually increase exposure over a 7 to 10 day period.

From Growing Gardens Website:
Recommended Minimum Temperatures (for seedlings)
Hardy:
40° F.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage, onions, leeks, parsley

Half-Hardy:
45° F.
Celery, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, endive

Tender:
50° F.
Squash, pumpkin, sweet corn

60° F.
Cucumber, muskmelon

65° F.
Basil, tomatoes, peppers

—–<—-@

Update:
In the lower beds, I have gone through and spaced out most of the collards and mustards that were clustered together. In the next week, I see that hardening off (and planting) the rest of our greenhouse seedings is a priority, so Axcelle and I are leaving the greenhouse front flap open. It’s getting hot in that hothouse!

Happy gardening and last week of classes!
-Jackie

 

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Month of August

Well, these weeks slipped away.

Due to the personal requirements of moving houses, working and maintaining what feels like a mountain of projects all at once this month, I haven’t had time to update this thing. Despite appearances, we have not slipped away into the void. Quite the contrary! It is the best time of the year!

The tomatoes are on in force, and so I’ve begun the annual canning ritual. I’m hoping to get to thirty quarts this season, as well as doing salsa, catsup, and some other oddities (pickled cherry tomatoes, anyone?). I expect the harvest will peak sometime in the next two weeks, and then slack off as the nights are beginning to get noticeably cooler and earlier. Anyway, I’m optimistic about the haul; I built a whole other shelf today specifically for holding tomato products.

Other new arrivals these past few weeks include beans and peppers. Let it be known: this is the first year of farming here that I’ve ever managed to grow hot peppers. Cutting the water off almost completely when they flower seems to have done the trick, although three years of experimentation with different varieties and sustained temperatures above 80 this summer can’t have hurt anything either. I’m proud of myself, anyway, even if no one else is. Gonna make some ristras, y’all. It’s been nice, as well, to have the beans again after the long break from feeling totally swamped by peas in June. I was late on the bean planting this year, since the first two attempts mysteriously failed to germinate— I blame the trashy soil in the raised beds.

Today, Kathleen and I harvested the potatoes. It was a reasonable haul, not quite as heavy as I’d hoped, but respectable. The lesson for this year, I think has been to put in more potatoes, less spring greens, and no corn. Every year, I get excited about planting corn, and while it’s done okay this year, given the yield I’ll get, I’d rather just have another hundred or hundred and fifty pounds of potatoes, quite frankly. Nonetheless, I’m glad to have potatoes in, it’s definitely one of the more tangible feelings of accomplishment I get in a season. Something about uprooting several months worth of food in the space of an hour just feels luxurious and decadent, you know? Anyway, of the five varieties we did, I’m most impressed with the quality of the Colorado Rose— beautiful, large, relatively uniform red potatoes. The Russet Silverton, unsurprisingly to me, did terribly, and the other three— Yellow Finn, German Butterball and French Fingerling— were the workhorses I’d expected. I think this is the last year I do Russets. The yield is far lower than any other variety, the rats seem to favor them more than anything else, and they’re just, truth be told, kind of bland. They’re also about a dollar for five pounds in the store, so why bother? Next year, more French Fingerlings, no Russets.

From pommes de terre we go to pickling the apple trees (nice transition there, right?). Both the trees by the garden are about ready to be picked, so I’m going to start hauling them in next week, and after they’ve sweated for a bit, we’ll press them for cider and then I’ll get around to making brandy later this fall. Eau de Vie for all the farmhands will ensue, hopefully.

On the subject of booze, the hops desperately need to be picked— I’ve got a wet hop ale scheduled to be brewed early this coming week, and the rest I’ll dry out and freeze. The chest freezer is getting mighty cramped these days, but that is really just a good excuse to eat more of the hog.

Speaking of hogs (I am an unstoppable segueing machine! Hot damn!), on Wednesday this week Kathleen and I went to OSU’s “Integrating Pigs Into a Diverse Small Farm Operation” class in Corbett, OR, which was about as sexy as it sounds, which is to say, very. We toured Growing Seeds farm, which hosted the class, and then listened to Gene Olson from OSU and Chris Roehm of Square Peg farm in Forest Grove talk about aspects of raising hogs on small farms— feed, health, pasturing, farrowing and breeding, and so on. It was very informative, and of course made me all the more regretful for not raising a couple pigs this year, but there’s always next season. The real highlight, of course, was playing with these guys:Image

 

Growing Seeds had two sows that had farrowed recently, and so there were a lot of baby pigs enjoying the mud, sun and attention from people happy to give them scritches.

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Of course, no journey to another farm would have been complete without the ever helpful, always well behaved Hazel, who I’ve also taken to referring to simply as the World’s Worst Farm Dog, given her startling ability to always find and stand on top of seedlings. Hazel, who had never seen a pig before, let alone two dozen pigs, was to say the least, excited.

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That, as you can perhaps tell, is a picture of me holding down a very unhappy dog who would like nothing better than to eat as many piglets as possible in the space of about a minute, and who was very displeased at the sight of a 250 pound sow coming close to the fence and snorting at her before the wow shuffled back to the mud and what I can only imagine is the rather tiresome task of being a mother to about eight piglets. Said sow:Image

Despite the poorly behaved dog, however, it was a good trip, and a nice break from the normal. One of the best parts of farming on Vashon last year was the close proximity to so many other small farms, and the tight knit community there that made visits and tours and workdays so easy to arrange. It’s a bit harder here in the Willamette valley, but it’s always nice when it happens. It’s valuable to see what other people are doing, both to get ideas and inspiration, and to spend time with people who know and understand what you’re trying to do. The validation of shared suffering is hard to find sometimes in this largely solitary pursuit. For me too, as a current member of “the youth”, it’s invaluable to spend time amongst people who’ve been doing this for longer than I’ve been alive, and to gain some of that insight and wisdom, cranky and cantankerous though it may occasionally be. The rural world is changing, in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse. Either way, though, if we’re going to make it as young and beginning farmers, we need to figure out ways to build our own rural communities. The churches are gone, the schools are gone, most of the towns are gone, let alone the small feed stores and farm stores and rural veterinarians happy to make midnight calls to a farm. So that’s the question facing us: how do we do it? I think talking to the old-timers is as good a place to start as any, and at the least, we’ll get some good stories out of it.

So, this is my missive for now. The very last of the fall and winter plantings will go in tomorrow, although I may try to sneak in another round of radishes sometime around the end of September. Other than, that, we’re in the thick of it; sadly, our camera is broken or I’d have many lovely pictures of tomatoes for this thing. Words will have to do.

Harvesting these weeks: Kale, Chard, Basil, Leeks, Cherry Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Beans, Flowers, Hops, Potatoes, Peppers (Hot), Peppers (Jalapeno), Peppers (Sweet). I love this time of year— cool nights, warm days, tomatoes on the vine, potatoes in the cellar, garlic in the kitchen, squash almost ready to harvest, saison in hand. A good time of year for bike rides and grilling and enjoying the fruits of a long seasons worth of work.

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Week of July 23rd/ Week of July 30th

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It has been a harvesting, pickling and jamming rush these past couple of weeks, hence the silence here. Pictured above is the strawberry infused vinegar, ready for straining and bottling, made some weeks ago, and the cherry bounce, ready for infusing. We used an even split of rainier and bing cherries to make the bounce; I find that the bing cherries often have a somewhat medicinal quality that I dislike, but the rainier cherries won’t leech much color into the bourbon. We went with buffalo trace, having considered both bulleit and makers mark. Price point ultimately won out; however, if I was to make more I think I’d go with the bulleit, given the higher content of rye used in the mash.

I’d had hopes of course, of harvesting the cherries from the orchard at Reed to make the bounce, but alas, they produced even more poorly than they usually do. Such is the gamble of foraged food. Likewise, I was excited to try my hand at making mulberry aigre-doux, after stumbling upon a recipe. Aigre-doux are preserves in the French and Italian tradition, and as the name suggests, are bittersweet— usually a mix of alcohol, sugar and vinegar, neither fully jam nor fully pickle, with the fruit most often left intact. Anyway, given the large amount of jams and jellies and pickles that are rapidly filling the crates in the basement right now, some sort of middle ground seemed worthwhile to explore, and perhaps a useful condiment down the road for cheese plates, if we ever manage to get around to making our own cheese. I have this vision in my head of being able to proffer up a board (dark stained hardwood, obviously) of homemade cheese, meat I butchered and cured myself, cornichons I pickled, and condiments I preserved to the ultimate end of having an amazed and enthralled eating audience that applauds my culinary mastery.

So, foodie pretensions and silly need for validation via captive audience with empty stomachs being foremost in my head, I was excited to find the mulberry tree chock full of fruit. I left it unpicked for a few days while I wrapped up other projects, then bought my wine, bought my vinegar, and proceeded to wind my way through the canyon to pick the fruit. I gathered what I needed, hopeful and excited enough to ignore the fruit flies that were suddenly everywhere around the tree (damned drosophila!), poised perfectly upon my rickety commandeered ladder to pick only the finest of fruits the tree had to offer. No sodden, half-rotten fruits were destined for my preserves, heaven forbid! Mulberries, for those lacking certainty, are like long, purple raspberries or blackberries, only much sweeter, with edible stems, and they grow on trees. So I picked my fruit, all three quarts of it, and returned home with my treasure. Some time later, with jars sterilized, I opened the wine for the brine, and began packing fruit into jars, only to cover the first one with the simmering brine and instantly have a dozen fly larvae (or, in more common parlance, “fucking maggots”) float to the top of the jar. I tried valiantly, I really did. I skimmed out as many as I could, muttered some words to myself about “beggars not being choosers” and “organic food means bugs” and all that, recalled past summers of happily slicing rotten chunks out of peaches at three in the morning post midnight dumpster-raid, and rapidly gave up. I am, it turns out, at a stage of life where I am uninterested in stubbornly eating maggots to prove a point about the viability of foraged food.

Needless to say, I rather crankily drank the rest of the wine, and plotted both revenge on the flies and future developments in the land of aigre-doux and mostarda.

So there have been ups and downs in this whole thing of late. In better news, the fall and overwinter plantings are getting wrapped up soon, the first tomatoes are coming in, and the cucumbers have been insanely productive. Other harvesting forays into the blueberry patch and various blackberry patches have yielded no maggots that I’ve seen. Then again, I’ve decided to stop looking. Presumably, they’re a high acid food.

What else transpires? All of the garlic is cleared, the last of the cabbage will come out this weekend, the sunflowers are exploding, some of the hops will be harvestable soon and I have high hopes for beans in the next week or two. The corn has done the usual thing for anything planted in the bed it’s in— the five row feet in each row closest to the driveway are significantly stunted. It’s not surprising at this point, but I had hoped for better this year, after a full season of cover cropping, heavy additions of manure and compost, and a good start. No luck though— soil tests haven’t turned anything up, so my best guess at this point is that the roots are hitting a gravel bed for the roadway deeper than I can till, and the plants are stunting out. Or, a secret warren (?) of moles is devouring the roots below the surface.

Other than that, the usual challenges for this time of year appear— powdery mildew in the cucurbits, aphids on the brassicas, moles/gophers/rats in the beets, carrots and potatoes. Everything flourishes, even what you’d rather didn’t (looking at you, fruit flies).

Challenges and occasional failures aside, though, I feel good about where things are. To take home a bunch of flowers every other day is a good thing, and to have tomatoes coming on alongside a whole garden full of other produce, as well as the entire green space of Reed, much of which is more or less forageable, is doubly good. It is wealth, really and truly. Finding a way to exist somewhat in the old way, in the peasant economy of sufficiency agriculture, small scale husbandry and foraging, is an easy way to achieve food security. A chunk of land plus a commons, plus the knowledge, skill and time to draw from those spaces and preserve out of them, is a better insurance policy than any I know of. It’s the only insurance policy many of us have.

That’s hokey, maybe. I don’t know; I know I feel lucky to have this and to be able to do this, still. It is a huge amount of work, but on the other hand, it’s August, and I have a pig in a freezer, a garden full of produce where the tomatoes are just starting out, and a commons with berries, wild greens, tree fruit and guardians who are (usually) happy to allow respectful use. It’s hard times, out there in the world. It’s hard times here too, for a lot of us. But this is how we get by; this is a weapon. Skill, knowledge, a piece of land and a lasting community commitment to use it wisely.

Harvesting these weeks: kale, chard, cabbage, leeks, carrots, beets, radishes, green tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, cucumbers, blueberries, blackberries, plums, mulberries.

I’m starting to look forward to fall, to dark beer and apples and fennel, to chanterelles and slaughter time and putting up work until another winter passes, mostly. Two more months of summer, maybe, and then the return of the rain and the mud. Until then, expect an excited post about tomatoes in the next couple of weeks, and then a month of complaining…

 

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Week of July 16th/ Special Pickle Picture Post

It’s been a busy weekend here, pickling, harvesting and keeping up with the weeding/planting schedule in the garden. Nonetheless, things are moving relatively smoothly. The sauerkraut we made last week is happily bubbling along; maybe this week it will be joined by some crock pickles. Thanks to Sasha’s and Carolyn’s work today, we’ve managed to knock the weeds back for another week, and (theoretically) I’ll be seeding the last of the fall crops this week. If not, well, we’ll be late. Fennel needs to be done, as well as more cabbage, beets (yes, yes even beets— blame Hogsback Farm on Vashon and Brian Lowry’s evil ways for corrupting me so) and kale. The brussels of course are in, and I’m hoping to be able to plant collards next week or the week after as we clear the turnips, daikons and garlic.

Yes, garlic! Today I began harvesting what was ready, pulling a couple softneck varieties that had begun to fall over, and were far enough along to pull. I like to begin harvesting when there’s still a few green leaves left on each stock, and cure the cloves on screens or milk cartons for a week or so before hanging them or braiding them. Harvesting like this means the softneck varieties are nearly always ready before the hardneck varieties, and this year’s been no different thus far. So far I’ve pulled the Inchelium Red and the Nootka Rose— sometime later this week I’ll harvest the Silver Rose (another softneck) and maybe by next week, I’ll have gotten around to digging up the hardnecks— Spanish Roja, Purple Italian, Music, Chesnok Red and I believe one or two others, the names of which are escaping me at the moment. It’s always a good sign when you can’t remember how many varieties you’ve planted off the top of your head.

So I’m feeling rich. I’m adding garlic to my pantry again, I’ve got pickles and jams aplenty, and the tomatoes are putting on fruit. It looks to be not only a good potato crop, but a good squash crop, and one of these days, I’ll have some damn carrots. All things in time, I suppose. The basil went from being rather sad looking and slug bit to being lush and healthy in what seems like a week, and now I’m eyeing both it and my freezer for pesto, trying to figure how much of the hog we’ll have to eat to clear out freezer space for vegetables. Such troubles, my life holds.

Harvesting this week: kale, chard, baby leeks, cucumbers, savoy cabbage, sunflowers, turnips, beets, basil and sad little baby carrots. I’m also thinking about foraging up some chicory for it’s roots soon, in order to brew up a chicory stout a la Dogfish Head, although it might be easier to just buy the flavoring I suppose. Less interesting though. The crop of hops looks to be decent this year as well, so maybe I’ll be able to make a stout with chicory from the canyon, and a fresh hop ale with hops from our garden. Now I just need another acre or so to grow all my own barley, and a malt house, and ….

The perpetual dream of more land rears it’s head once again, walking around campus, looking at the rugby pitching, thinking “That’d make a mighty nice pasture for some dairy goats”, or “gee, do we really need the whole front lawn to be grass?”. But I get along with this little space, and we feed quite a few people off it. Maybe someday, Reed will see the light, and we’ll have a real farm. But for now, we have our corner to dig a few potatoes in, and grow some beans and corn and squash, and we can build it and make it more beautiful and fruitful than anyone thought we’d manage to do three years ago. Or that I thought, for that matter. Surprises all around!

And let’s remember our history: La tierra es de quien la trabaja con sus manos. All structures shift in time; eventually, we’ll pull up the sidewalks and dig up the front lawn of this place, and grow food. Reed was a farm once; maybe it will be once again.

Pictures below:

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The squash is beginning to reach out onto the asphalt.

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Corn, getting tall.

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The sunflowers are starting to bloom; soon we’ll be overwhelmed, and will have more than necessary to grace even the fanciest of tables.

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Hops, also flowering, high up on the trellis.

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The beginnings of a tomato jungle.

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Rouge vie d’etampes (cinderella) pumpkins, just starting out. This variety is good for carving or eating, and is especially good for soups and pumpkin butter, in my experience.

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Summertime splendor.

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New potatoes: Yellow Finn, German Butterball, Rio Colorado, French Fingerling and Silverton Russet.

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Baby leeks, soon to be grilled as a burger topping.

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Garlic, ready to be harvested.

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Garlic, harvested. This variety is Inchelium Red; it’ll be braided once it’s dried and cured, and hung up in the kitchen for use.

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The first week’s crop of pickling cucumbers— I plant Calypso and National Pickling types, and these will soon be combined with…

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…garlic from the garden and grape leaves from the canyon orchard, as well as spices and brine, to make…

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… pickles.

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And pickled beets, of course, have their place in the world too.

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As does a new experiment for this year, green walnut liquer, discovered here. We will see if its worth anything. In true Portland fashion, we used a locally distilled vodka from New Deal distillery, here in Southeast, and walnuts we scrounged from around the canyon at Reed. I’m looking forward to trying it, almost as much as I’m looking forward to making and trying cherry bounce, whenever we get around to it. Gettin’ drunk off local, seasonal goodies, ’tis the Portland way.

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