Tuesday, February 23, 2010


For any gardener, one of the most delightful aspects of getting to know a new growing space happens in the first year you live on your new property:


When we moved here in October of last year, things were pretty much dying back. The leaves on the trees were almost gone, the rose was covered in rose hips and whatever plants had been planted to cheer the place up and make it attractive to potential buyers figured that their work was done, and had long since given up and died off.

There are a number of older trees and shrubs around the house, some of which I am excited about, and some not. I love that there is a huge lilac right by the back door, and the tulip magnolia is covered in velvety buds- I can't wait to see what it looks like in bloom. I've never been a big fan of rhododendrons, but as they are the quintissential Northwest flowering plant that deer and elk don't eat, I am working on developing an appreciation for the three we have inherited- I just hope they are not that cloying pink one.

The big surprise so far has been this tree that we thought was possibly some kind of purple beech. We had only ever seen it in leaf, or without leaves. There was a huge, beautiful purple beech tree near our old farm in Seaside, and I suppose my mind just associated 'purple leaves' with 'purple beech'. It's a good thing I'm not an arborist.

Years ago, back when I was still fairly intellectual and read things other than seed catalogs and books about propagation, I read a book by Nikos Kazantzakis called 'Report to Greco'- not in the original Greek, I'm not that good. I have always remembers this haiku that he wrote in that book:

"I said to the almond tree,
"Sister, speak to me of God,
and the almond tree blossomed."

I'm not a particularly religious person, but the morning I walked out of our back door to see that tree blooming, backlit by welcome winter sunlight, I really got it why people are. I could almost hear that choral note sounding around me, which in Western pop culture is always the signal that something miraculous has happened.

Or that the credits for Star Trek (original version) have just begun.

We are off this weekend to attend the OSU Small Farms Conference in Corvallis on Saturday, and even more exciting, we are North Coast delegates to the Friends of Family Farmers 'Agricultural Reclamation Act' gathering the following day. I know we will come back inspired and even more determined to make our farm a success. I will let you know how it goes...

...and when Packy got close to the tree, he realized that it was
humming with happy honey bees.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I've gotten a lot of questions lately from concerned customers and friends about plant starts. "What do you mean, you've moved the farm?!" said the guy ringing up my purchase at Costco the other night. "I just got my garden all sorted out and ready to plant this year, where am I going to get those tomato plants?"

It's going to be OK.

We have to take a short trip to visit family this weekend, and as soon as we get back, the seeds are getting started. (It seemed a bit much to ask the lovely person staying with the cats to also babysit several hundred seedlings as well.)

It won't be as big a selection as we've done in the past, but all the North Coast tomato favourites will be there: Stupice, Sungold, Paul Robeson, Black Cherry, Yellow Pear, San Marzano, and several others that I am blanking on right now. It's terribly hard- the seed catalogs have been SO tempting this year, and I am trying hard to maintain some self control.

We'll have lettuce, spinach, peas, beans, greens and an assortment of other veg plants, as well as the flower and herb favourites- calendula, poppies, nasturtiums, cerinthe, cilantro and basil too.

It won't be the same, but it will be better than no plants at all. I've got to get poppies and calendula growing here as soon as possible to start building up the seed bank in the soil. Things were just getting perfect at the old farm with plants sowing themselves (mostly ones that I wanted) and I just cannot imagine not having poppies growing randomly throughout the farm. I am interested to see what comes up here this spring, but I fear it is mainly going to be some morning glory right around the house, and Canada thistle in the pasture (right where we want to put the orchard). Ugh. I don't see many bulbs at all- I will miss Mrs. Ostman's daffodils.

We've been spending time walking the property, figuring out what will go where, and if that makes sense from a work efficiency viewpoint. We've marked out where the greenhouse will go, and as soon as we get a stretch of dry weather our friend Dan will come over with his tractor to scrape down the site, and we can get it re-built. We're dreaming of adding on to it, on the theory that it was already feeling too small. We'll see if our budget can squeeze out an extra twenty feet of growing space- I will happily live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if it gives me more room for seedlings!

Stay tuned.

Eddie the Cat can't wait until we turn on the Indoor Sun again