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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Week of July 9th

Well, I always hear people say that summer doesn’t really start until the fourth of July, and that seems true enough this year. The weather’s been making up for lost time, it seems.

There’s always a point around this time in each season where I look at whatever I’m writing— whether it’s a CSA newsletter, blog post, journal entry or whatever— where if I’m doing it regularly enough, I realize I’m just talking about the weather. In my mind, I like to envision this blog as me and you, reader, leaning over a rickety fence (perhaps built by one or the other of our “Pa”s, some years ago) stray piece of grass and/or chew wedged firmly in both of our mouths, while we solemnly gaze out across a field of wheat/corn/soybeans. Our windswept Okie faces remain nearly motionless except for their slow reddening in the summer sun, our eyes, as hard and as quiet as the engine on a decaying farmall, take in the surroundings. A single hawk cruises the immense span of nearly white sky, without luck. A single low breeze swells wavelike across the field in front of us, fanning us, its sole occupants, with heat. One or the other of us thumbs a strap on suspenders or overalls. “Shore could use some rain”, one of us says. “Yup.”, responds the other, speaking a mono-syllabic mouthful. “T’aint likely to have no corn fer th’hogs without no rain.” “Nossir.” “T’aint likely a’tall.” “Nossir.”

If it was raining the next day, we would be complaining about our inability to plow.

The point is, the weather dominates the pursuit of growing food— obsession with it can become all encompassing. So consider yourself grateful that I’m at least aware enough of my tendency to discuss it to try and avoid doing so, as any writing about growing things can turn into, “Well, we had some hot days, and some wet days, and then a wet month, and then it got cold for a night…”. It drags on. But it did suddenly get hot, and that’s exciting because it means:

The peas are gone! No more of the pea harvest oppression. Of course, soon we will have beans to pick, and I will be excited about them for a week, and then grouse about them for four more, but this is the natural progression of things, so to speak. Anyway, peas are out, brussels are in, and the corn, depending on whose knees we’re using here, was definitely the right height by the fourth. The next round of basil is in, and what made it past the slugs from the last round is delicious. The turnips and daikons are getting intimidatingly large, we’re only a week or two away from carrots, and the second round of beets is almost here.

Other than clearing the peas, I did some further work on the tomato trellis this week, and on Sunday, we planted more beans, did some weeding, and picked cabbage. We’ve also begun spraying for aphids (using OMRI certified safer soap) to try and nip that particular problem in the bud. On Sunday night, Sasha helped me make sauerkraut with a couple of cabbage heads, so I’ll try and remember to post something about that when it’s done fermenting. I follow Sandor Ellix Katz’s recipe, which I’ve used with success ever since I first picked up his zine a few years back. I think he has a book now? Fermentation is cool, you should check it out! At the risk of becoming more of a Portlandia cliche, if you can grow it, you can, in fact pickle it (usually).

So, harvesting this week: Kale, Chard, Turnips, Daikons, Beets (sort of), Peas (sort of), Early Jersey Cabbage, Basil, and Cucumbers. It’s pickling season! I want to try making this, but there’s always the classic carrot/daikon pickle for bahn mi as well. Now I just need to go scrounge up a good source of grape leaves, and tragically, dill.

Thanks to everyone who came and helped out this week!

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Week of June 25th/ Week of July 2nd

And so it begins; slacking posts as I get really busy.

Despite a return to rainy, wet weather, we had a lot of movement in the fields this week. The area in front of the greenhouse is now a solid block of gigantic squash leaves and sunflowers, the latter having barely made it up above the sea of green before the squash closed in on it. Every year I convince myself that I should put the squash just a couple inches closer than recommended and get one more hill, and every year I put my head in my hands and weep at the horror I’ve wrought.

The tomatoes are looking good, with the exception of three “accident” tomatoes that had their main stems pruned along with the suckers. It’s a fierce learning curve, kids. The thing about doing this is it’s really hard to hide your mistakes, as I was reminded when a cluster of beans was pointed out to me growing, rather incongruously, from the side of a raised bed, as opposed to inside that raised bed. Try and try again, I suppose.

We may harvest some cabbage later this week; the Early Jersey heads are starting to firm up and get nice and big, so soon it’ll be pickling time. We’ll be using a few heads so everyone can get some kraut, and we’ll mix up a nice sized batch together. The red cabbage are going to take a couple weeks more, and I’d like the Savoy to get bigger before we start picking them, but all in all I’m really pleased with the way the cabbage has turned out in this half of the season, and I think we’ll plant even more for the fall, so I’m looking forward to getting those in the ground in the next few weeks.

Our peas are beginning to slack off, just in time for the cucumbers to start getting big and flower in quantity. All of the cucumbers we grow are pickling varieties, as it should be clear to anyone who has progressed beyond a kindergarten level education that the true intended purpose of the cucumber was for pickles. With sixty row feet, we should have enough to make quite a bit of pickles— which makes it all the more tragic that the dill failed me. (After three tries! Three! Clearly, it was not meant to be.) We’ll be making both fermented and quick pickles, and we should be able to put up a nice stock for winter. I recently came across a recipe for a cucumber infused sake that looked interesting as well, so that may become an experiment.

Preserving is an integral part of growing our own food. If we’re serious about attaining some level of food self-sufficiency, we need to plan ahead for the winter and early spring while we’re still in the heart of the growing season. People have known this for thousands of years, of course, but it’s odd how far we’ve drifted away from that under the industrial food culture. When everything is available all the time at a near static price, we don’t, and almost can’t, comprehend the near miracle behind having, to choose the obvious example, tomatoes during the winter time. That’s the grocery store. If we want to grow all our own food, we need to figure out ways to keep it, and we need to plant with that end in mind. When I planned the garden this winter, the thought wasn’t just “what will I want in June” but “what will I want in January”. So, more or less, this garden features a heavy emphasis on crops that hold up well to storage and are easily preserved, whether by pickling, canning, drying, freezing or cellaring. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have less preservable crops— we grow lettuce, we grow radishes, we grow snap peas and spinach and flowers. But the things we grow in quantity— potatoes, pickling cucumbers, cabbage, alliums, tomatoes, fall squash and corn— these things are all easily put aside at minimal cost for the winter time.

So the challenge is balancing the immediate needs of harvest season, and the long term needs of the off season. We are blessed with a mild enough climate that we can often grow year round, or at least very late into the season. So we plant for three to four seasons, overwinter some crops, and make sure to plant enough preservable crops to last into the winter to help meet our vegetable needs when it’s pouring rain and 38 degrees for ten weeks in a row. If we’re serious about wanting to get off of industrial agriculture, and about wanting to take personal responsibility for where our food comes from, this is the crucial point. And in the end, it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, and it’s more fun. Food is the first wealth; there’s nothing more satisfying than looking at a pantry that, in September and October, is chock full of preserved food for the coming winter. I think on some level, our bodies remember that natural rhythm, and crave it. Your belly knows it’s good to have 30 quarts of tomatoes canned, even if you have to do it in the August heat.

These past few weeks have been filled with making raspberry and strawberry preserves, rhubarb preserves, and if we can get it together in the next week or two, cherry preserves. Later in the season, we’ll do blackberries and blueberries, and I personally have my heart set on a case of peaches, although I’ll have to find a good farm to get them from. Not all of these come from the garden of course; most of them don’t, and couldn’t given how much land we have to work with. But that’s part of what makes this worthwhile— we don’t have to buy veggies, which lie at the core of our diets, and so we save money that we can then afford to spend supporting other farms growing things we can’t grow. We gain a degree of autonomy that lasts us the year, we gain choice, and we gain the freedom to buy that case of organic peaches and make preserves. One of these days, I’ll figure out the cash value of what I make if I was to buy it all, and I thoroughly expect to feel like the wealthiest boy in Portland.

Going into the winter, I hope to have preserves of every fruit I can get for free from trees and bushes in the city, as well as some that I’ve bought, enough pickles to survive my decadent pickle habit, cured meat from our pig, and a field full of winter greens and root veggies to last through the hard rains and first freezes. Existing like this, we’re in the peasant economy— I don’t think that’s such a bad place. We may not have cash to show for our labor, but we’ll have full larders and freezers and root cellars, and if we thought straight as a culture, that would be the highest of achievements.

Pictures are below! We did some weeding today, and next weekend I’m hoping to get the final raised beds cleared and planted. Beans are up, cucurbits are flowering, greens are trucking along and the corn is knee high, and it’s not even the fourth yet. Everyone’s hard work is great, and the plants are looking strong, healthy and happy.

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The best farm dog. This blog is actually just going to be pictures of my dog, from now on. Dog blog. Image

This is the enemy. This is what we contend with, daily.

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Harvesting this week: peas, kale, chard, turnips, beets. Not pictured: green onions, scapes, raspberries.

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Beautiful root crops! Apocolypticrops!

As always, many thanks to everyone who came and helped out this week, it’s been awesome to see people get acquainted with and excited about the space.

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Week of June 18th and Solstice

I’m writing this at the end of a gorgeous sunset here, on the solstice, eating food we all grew together, and drinking a beer I made. I’m feeling rather validated by all of the endeavors of this community, at the moment.

The solstice is a funny time. I’ve been trying to grow most of my own food for a few years now, and so I increasingly tend to think of the year in Lean Times and Fat Times. The two circle each other, and while there are perhaps broader stretches which we might term one or the other (the difference, for example between late August and late February is one felt rather intently after the twentieth dinner-time variation of potatoes and Kale) they tend to come and go. This always begins to feel like a bit of a lean time. The spring veggies are being cleared; the last of the summer veggies are going in, but not yet close to harvest, and the fall veggies are still seedlings or seeds, yet to even become more than a vision and hope.

The spinach is gone, peppers are in. The mustard and arugula gone, beans soon to go in.  The radishes are all but gone, between the joint efforts of us and the bugs, and the increasingly bitter first bed of lettuce is soon to follow suit to the compost pile, and while more will be planted, it will not be ready for some time. Perhaps if we had more space (and I more time) our succession plantings would be better organized. Alternately, if I had not give over half our space to vanity crops like tomatoes and peppers and sunflowers, we would have had more space to grow succession plantings of greens, but somehow I think no one will be questioning that decision come August. (Again, fat times and lean times; if you want the one, you must grapple with the other.)

So here we are, on the solstice; beautiful chard, kale, peas and raspberries are coming from the garden, cabbage is still a little ways off, beets are still a little way off, and the spinach, arugula, mustard and lettuces are either finished off or on their last legs. The tomatoes are trellised, the peppers are in, all the squash are in, the first round of beans are in, the corn is doubling daily, and the weeds are held at bay only by the courage of a handful of brave men and women. I have become no less grandiose in my writing.

Here we are, in a “lean” time, the comfort of fat times soon to follow.

 

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Pictures of plants, people and produce.

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Will, Evan, Sasha and Laura planting peppers today. Note the gigantic fennel plant in the background.

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A Long’s Pie Pumpkin plant, putting on its first fruits of the season.

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What I took home this week: lacinato and red russian kale, rainbow chard, garlic scapes and raspberries for making jam.

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The garden. From left to right: garlic, turnips/daikon radishes, long’s pie pumpkin, carrots/beets, pickling cucumbers, and one of the tomato beds. The weeds in the front are not a crop.

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Potato rows. They’re almost flowering! This is how we know it’s summer.

Thanks to the hard work of Will, Sasha, Laura and Evan, today we managed to clear the spinach, plant peppers, build the tomato trellis, tie up and prune all the tomatoes, clear the raised bed of mustard and arugula, plant pole beans in with the corn, and weed the whole garden like crazy. Farm punks— gettin’ it done.

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