Sunday, March 28, 2010

All Things Work Out For the Best

It's been a wonderful vacation. Ten wonderful days. When we got to Edgar's Acres on the 18th the Rhody was all in bud. Today, it's showing off it's beautiful colors. This Rhody likes where it is now. It was in the front of the house but we moved it before bringing in the new house.

It's been a week of planting and planning. Yesterday Susan and I planted our onions and potatoes.

All of the new raised beds have now been planted. These beds were planted with peas and carrots. We are going to have LOTS of peas and carrots. Territorial Seed included a package of carrots for donating to the food bank with each order we have received. We've have planted the carrot seeds and will be happy to donate them when it's time to harvest.

The new beds in the west garden were planted with fava beans as a green manure until we plant the broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts. David included the corner posts so we can have something to tack the row covers to when we plant. The cabbage moths will be a bit miffed but we love our brussel sprouts and broccoli, so we are taking this measure this year. We also had to move all of these crops out of the primary garden in an effort to eradicate the cabbage moth infestation we had last year in that plot.

The new bed around the NW corner of the deck has been completed and planted with sunflower seeds. We are hoping to provide some shade and a wind break for this summer. The sun in the summer is so intense, and the wind can be pretty strong. We'll see how this works.

The bed for the sweet potatoes has been covered with a brown mulch to warm up the soil. I've never planted sweet potatoes before but we thought we'd give it a try. There are a couple of stubborn tulips so the mulch went around them. It's always nice to have color in the early garden.

The other new crop we are planting this year is asparagus. I've been reading up on them in our various reference gardening books and so we built this bed which is 18" x 14'. I prepared the soil underneath it last year with organic mulch, covered it with straw, and then when we were filling up the bed, added more organic mulch and fertilizer. All ready for the asparagus crowns coming in the middle of April, except ...

it's too small. When going through the latest Territorial Seed catalog to order some brown and red mulch, I saw this little book entitled "Grow the Best Asparagus." I went ahead and ordered it to have shipped with the mulch thinking it would be nice to have a booklet on asparagus. Glad I did. For $5.00 this little book is a wealth of information. I've ordered 25 crowns for planting this spring, and we aren't ready.

Each asparagus plant needs room for big roots. The roots go six feet deep and spread out about five feet. The "tiny" raised bed I thought would be perfect is an insult to these wonderful plants. This morning after we had our first cups of coffee I announced to David and Susan what I had read the night before. Time to regroup and think this through.

Where to put this bed, and how big.

This little booklet also speaks as to how large these plants will be and how they can block sun from the rest of the garden. "Block" is the operative word here. David and I have been trying to figure out how to block the view of our back neighbor's yard. Perfect.

This morning we laid out where the asparagus bed will go and covered the area with tarps to start killing off the grass. We'll have to rent a rototiller and take it from there. Anyone out there like to run rototillers?

By my poor planning last fall, we have solved two problems because of these asparagus. Blocking the view of the neighbor's yard, and I now have a prepared bed ready for the 30 gladiolas bulbs Leslie gave me. They are perfect for the little tiny asparagus bed.

We're getting ready to head back to Bellevue and reality. This vacation has been just what we both needed. Glad we took a Spring Break.



Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Tutorial

I've had several ask me how we make our raised beds, so yesterday I followed David around with my camera so you can how we build them.

The first thing we do is try to clean up the area as much as we can of the large weeds. David built two 3x10' beds yesterday. The wood we use is untreated Douglas Fir, which is processed locally. We do not use pressure treated wood because of the chemicals used in the process.

David cuts the wood to the appropriate size and then places it where the bed will be. Then he screws them together.
There's the raised bed.
The next step is to place cardboard (US made, stay away from cardboard from China), and/or newspaper (no colored paper) over the ground and then put the raised bed over that. Putting something over the dirt suppresses the weeds. It will decompose with time.

The dirt comes next. The garden soil we ordered consists of 60% peat, 20% compost, and 20% aged sterilized horse manure. This is well seasoned soil and no, it doesn't smell.

It's a few steps, but a lot of work as well. These beds take a lot of dirt.

After the bed has been filled and sat for a day or two, it's time to plant. This bed was filled up last weekend and I planted lettuce starts yesterday.

The garden takes a lot of work, but it is rewarding work. It's also therapeutic. Every muscle in the body is used, and the mind is constantly working. There is always something new to learn, and things to relearn. For two years we have been doing a "share garden" with Susan and other friends, so we have good help and lots of fresh produce for many. As I told David not long ago, I feel like I'm connected here in the garden, which is a wonderful way to feel.



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Sock and Things that Fly.

This year I had good intentions of celebrating St. Patrick's day wearing hand knit green socks, and getting the potatoes in the ground. Well, so much for good intentions. I did wear green, and we did have the potatoes, but ...
I only got one sock done, and the potatoes needed more time to set eyes. The sock is knit in a beautiful emerald green that I got when I went to Madrona in February. It's from Fancy Image Yarns, and as usual, it a sheer delight to work with. Myra dyes her own yarns and the colors are so brilliant and true. I've cast on the second sock and do intend to get a pair done soon. It's just hard to find time to knit when I'm working in the garden.

The potatoes will get planted this weekend, along with the onions that have come in. Susan is bringing them over on Saturday so we will have a planting frenzy.

In the meantime, we have really ticked off the crows around here. I am a fan of compost, which means composting all of the vegetable kitchen waste. It turns into black gold, and well worth the effort. My dad taught me the value of good compost, and I've never doubted it. Here at Edgar's Acres we have been using bins made with fence wire so the crows were regular visitors to the compost buffet.
Sorry you screeching birds, but the buffet is now closed. We are in the process of emptying out the compost bins at our house in Bellevue, and bringing them over to Edgar's Acres. First one is in place. We got this done on Monday and yesterday morning the crows sat in the trees lamenting the fact the buffet is now out of business. The compost is now all ours.
Yesterday morning David put up the Mason Bees box. We all know there is a crisis as far as the bee population goes. We have been planting flowers and shrubs to lure the bees in our garden and have tried to make our place bee friendly. The yellow jackets love the place, and last year I counted six different types of wild bees on the thyme. Our berries and vegetables were pollinated fine last year, but our apple trees were bare.

Our dear neighbor Charlie brought over a container of bees for us (on the right). The lower portion is full of the hibernating bees, which will be waking up soon and they will start filling in the empty tubes. After they have filled up all the little tubes this fall, we will bring in the containers and put them in the garage for the winter. Thank you Charlie.
Birds are an important part of our garden as well. We cleaned out the bird feeders and got them up for the birds. They've been flying by checking out the feeders and should be visiting soon. The birds help eat the bugs we don't want, especially the grub worms.
These bags are full of sterilized thistle seed (native thistle, not the Canadian thistle) that the finches dearly love.

We spent yesterday afternoon in Port Angeles. We first stopped by Everwarm to check out the woodstove we want to get in our house. The heat in this area is electric, propone or wood, and the electric bill is out of sight. When we had the house put up we planned for a woodstove in the family room, with circulation for the living area of the house. We will be getting the Endeavor
this Fall. Just got to finish saving up the cash for it.

Our next stop was the Airport Garden Nursery in Port Angeles. We have heard so much about this place and wanted to see for ourselves. I was planning on getting some flowers for the new beds so why not check out a new garden center. I could get into a lot of trouble here. I got pansies for the beds and some lettuce starts.

After that it was down to the ferry terminal for coffee, and then a trip out to Ediz Hook. It was amazingly calm so we were able to walk around without getting windblown. It was a nice to just watch the cargo ships heading out to the Pacific and the ferry coming into Port Angles.
The view looking over the Straits of Juan De Fuca is Vancouver Island, BC in Canada. Until I get my passport, this is the closest I can get to Canada.

We finished off the day visiting with my mom's cousin Mary Lou and her daughter Laurie. Mary Lou cooked an amazing meal, finished off with her cherry pie (made with our pie cherries). Mary Lou amazes me. For a 88 year old woman who is legally blind, she sure knows how to prepare a beautiful meal. A real treat was meeting Laurie's daughter Lilly her daughter Percy. Even though I had my camera, I forgot to take pictures. Grrr. We had a wonderful time and I love my Port Angeles family.

Well, today it's supposed to be warm and sunny so I'll be out planting lettuce and sunflower seeds. We are supposed to have rain tomorrow which actually will be a good thing as we need to get all of our new plantings watered.



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Still Having Fun in Sequim

Despite this picture, Edgar is having a great time at Edgar's Acres. However, at the end of the day, he's pooped. Just give him his couch, pillow, and blankie, and he's a happy boy (he would appreciate it if you would turn off the lights).

I was thinking yesterday how gardening is a lot like knitting. It's a process of creativity. There's the prep work, the actual doing the project, and the end result. In knitting you choose the pattern you want to knit, buy the yarn (or the other way around), read through the instructions, swatch for gauge, and then start knitting. As you knit, you stop to check the stitches are right and the measurements are as they should be. The end result is a garment, hat, blanket, etc. and you get to enjoy it yourself, or give it to someone to enjoy.

Gardening involves the planning, sowing or planting, checking on the garden along the way to make sure the seeds are germinating and the plants growing with good health. In the end, you get to harvest the produce to enjoy for yourself, and to share with others.

Last month Susan and I planted one bed. We planted carrots, radishes, two types of spinach and lettuce. Everything has now germinated and is starting to show their little heads.

The little radish plants are popping up and will need to be thinned. These have been planted on top of the carrot seeds so we will know where they are. Radishes germinate quickly, carrots can take a while.

The garlic is growing beautifully. This bed was planted last fall and we will be harvesting in July. This is like the knitting project you start with excitement, only to put aside for a while, and then pick up again later.

Sunday I moved the strawberry plants into a raised bed. They were okay where they were, but they are excited about their new home. We will attach bird netting to the boards so we get to enjoy the harvest instead of the crows.

Several weeks ago Susan and Katie came up to Edgar's Acres for Leslie's party. We were able to put in about 5 hours of work in the garden and yard (thanks again ladies). I had told Katie about a bed I wanted to put in the front of the house so I could put my trilliums back where they came from (they had to be moved when we brought in the new house). We talked about this bed, and look what she did!
What a treat! Sunday David tilled in compost, and then topped it off with the garden soil (we still have about 7 yards), and yesterday I planted the trillium, some hardy fuschias, bunch berries and wild ginger.
The trillum told me they are so happy to be back where they came from, the front of the house, where they will get the wonderful morning sun, and afternoon shade.
All of my transplants are happier now. Thanks Katie for helping us with the trilliums' new home.

Today we are heading to Port Angeles to run some errands and to have dinner with Mary Lou and Laurie. I've got some raspberry canes and strawberry plants for Laurie's garden. It's nice to have a cousin with a gardening connection.

Well, the sun is coming up and I have a few things to do before day really breaks through.



Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Lovely Day Overall ...

Yesterday started out with this. We ordered 15 yards of garden soil for the raised beds we are putting in this year. I realize many of you aren't excited by dirt, but I am. I have to be honest, I would rather be "playing in the dirt" instead of knitting, and that's saying a lot, because I love to knit.
While I was waiting for the work crew to wake up (meaning John and Matt), I started in on a new flower bed for the deck. David had built two 14' beds for the asparagus when we decided that was one bed too many for the garden, so we decided to move it next to the deck.
The weeds were growing in contractor's sand. The first thing on the agenda for the day was to clean out the weeds. I then took stock of what needed to be done. We had the two asparagus beds (one to become my flower bed), and six raised 3x10 beds in the enclosed garden. We also had 5 3x3 raised beds in another area of the property. All of the beds needed to be filled with the garden soil. We decided that the raised beds were the wait to go because of the ease in maintaining them (and because it's easier on aging backs and knees).

I put in about six inches of compost, and then the guys started putting in the soil. This was was new flower bed after the first load.

John and Matt started filling in the beds around noon. I'll be the first to admit, once they get started they get a job done.

Charlie was nice enough to let us borrow his tractor and wagon so their system was a go.
They got through almost half of that 15 yards of dirt.

Here's Matt's new profile picture.

Here's the last bed for the day. They did a lot of work in 4 hours (even with a break for a beer run and lunch). They are very efficient.

And I got my new flower bed.

Leslie came over and we spent the rest of the evening visiting, drinking good spirits, munching on shrimp, and having dinner of grilled rib eye steaks, asparagus and tossed salad.

It was a lovely day full of hard work, family and friends, good talk and laughs.

Thanks to John and Matt for coming up to Edgar's Acres to help out. As Susan would put it, "you get Cippolini Onions."



Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Valentine's Baby Blanket

Before Christmas last year Aimee commissioned me to knit a baby blanket for a friend. She came into my office with the color already in mind. Cranberry or whatever it's called. First step was buying the yarn. Over the lunch hour we got on the internet and started looking. I knew the blanket needed to be out of yarn that could be washed and dried by machine. Babies have a tendency to urp, pee, and do otherwise on their blankies so the blankets need to be able to withstand a lot of washings. I decided it was going to be either Encore or Wool-Ease. We first checked out the websites for the local yarn stores, then independent yarn stores on the internet, and finally ended up at Lion Brand Yarn's website so we could order the color Aimee wanted. It's called Burgundy and it's a beautiful color.

I started knitting the blankie in a lace pattern and determined that lace and the burgundy color didn't fit for a baby. I went back to Aimee and we conferred. She decided since the baby was going to be born in February how about hearts. Sounded fun.

First I had to find a graph for the hearts. I went to my favorite source,, and under the categories of "various charts" found a perfect heart pattern for an embossed knitted blankie.

Then came the swatch to see how large each block would be. I knit the blankie on size 9 needles so the knitted fabric isn't too dense and heavy. Liked what I saw, so started knitting. Well, because it was a large chart I kept losing my place so ...

Off to Knit Picks to order their chart holder. Perfect. Between the chart holder and my row counter I was in business. Love the chart holder. Saved my eyes and my sanity.

As many of you know, I do a lot of knitting while we travel between Bellevue and Edgar's Acres, and in the winter it's a very dark trip. For Christmas David gave me a travel light that I wear around my neck, which makes for a very happy knitter (and a nonexistent "back seat driver" which makes David happy).
These aren't easy to find, but this was ordered from Patternworks. I don't use the magnifiers (at least not yet), but sure have used the lamp. It works great on the bus commute to and from work in the dark winter months.
This blankie was a lot of knitting, but once I had the tools to help, it was a lot of fun to do. I'm really pleased with the way it came out.

And so was Aimee. It washed and dried beautifully and the little baby girl will be wrapped up in a lot of love.

Thanks Aimee for letting me be creative in my design.

Well, we have 15 yards of garden soil being delivered so better get moving.



Thursday, March 18, 2010

This afternoon we are heading over to Edgar's Acres, where I get to mow the lawn with my Anniversary present. Pretty isn't it? It matches my purse. My old trusty lawnmover had a major cardiac arrest so we had to get a new one. Since it fell on our anniversary weekend, we said "happy anniversary" to me. David got a new chain saw for our anniversary. This is what happens when you've been wonderfully married for 32 years. It makes us happy.

I'll be choosing the appropriate knitting projects, mostly socks, and a special blanket that I've been working on for a couple of years. It's coming along nicely and I'll have pictures later. I'm also working on a baby blanket that needs to get done and in the mail before the baby learns to drive.

I am so happy to be on this vacation. I truly didn't realize how much I needed this vacation until we went out on Date Night and I had a green marguerita. I've neglected friends, my blog, and myself for a long time. Time to catch up and relax.

Well, need to run some errands and play with the dogs. The weather is clear and cold this morning, but very invigorating.



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Here I am

I know, I've been gone for a while. I've been busy, in a befuddled mood, and cruising toward my Spring Break Vacation.

Work has been nuts, been busy knitting (more later), and been busy working in the garden.

We are headed over to Edgar's Acres tomorrow for ten wonderful days. I'll be taking pictures, posting them, and trying to get everyone up to date on what's been going on (if anyone is stopping by anymore).

For some reason this winter has been a bummer for me. It's been extremely LONG. I'm not sure exactly why, but have a clue. I've been hanging around with a huge weight on my back, which has now been removed. It's been one of those "mom's worry weights" and now that it's gone, I feel like I can take the time to starting breathing and stop praying. I've been kind of beating myself for feeling that way, but then decided, being a mom and feeling the way I do about loving my sons is just fine. That is just part of the mom job. Anyway, I feel better now and am getting back into the groove.

The sun is around, the days are longer, and we all feel good. I am a blessed woman and know it.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of my wonderful Irish relatives and friends.

Love you to my sons, all three of you (yes Matt, that includes you too).