Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Dirt

It's starting to look like garden season is near! An entry gate and fence have been added to welcome gardeners to our new Cordata Community Gardens.Everyone has worked hard! Crews have filled each bed with soil, and a layer of high-quality mulch tops each off. There's my neighbor's spot - the front one on the left! And my spot, the next one to the right!
Some have started setting out plants. Tomatos and tender salad greens have been planted in one bed.
The gardeners for this space have added a layer of grass clippings for mulch.
A little early, the soil is still a bit cool for most seeds to germinate. Another gardener has covered their bed with a special fabric to help warm the soil.
Square-foot gardening is a good choice for raised beds. One of our gardeners has already marked their beds off with twine and is ready to go!
My next gardening goal, pick up nails and twine, grab my hammer and tape measure as I head off to the garden and section my spot off into square foot increments too. Then, draw out a plan of what to plant where! Soon, I'll really be playing in the dirt!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tulip Festival

The tulips bloom!
The 26th annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival finally has more than just fields of buds! Finally! For mile after mile, the country roads running between LaConner and Mount Vernon are lined with acre after acre of glorious blooms. Thousands of people stop along the route to view the beautiful fields. Daffodils were still showing their color and drawing big crowds!
Pretty pink tulips against a rural backdrop.~~~~~
More photos of the flowers.

This map shows where the many daffodils, tulips and irises are growing in the Skagit Valley.
What a pretty day for my visit!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Intertidal Life

What do you get when you combine Larrabee State Park, a group of WSU Beach Watchers and Doug Stuart of ReSources for Sustainable Communities and the Beach Naturalist Program on a sunny morning? A great opportunity to observe an amazing variety of the intertidal species of the Salish Sea!
Pacific rockweed and eel grass from the strand line.
Eel grass growing in the low tidal waters.
Those small, blister-looking formations on that black rock, baby barnacles!
The molted shell of a red rock crab.
Respecting the critters and their natural habitat as we observed, we very gently returned any rocks we had turned over back to their original positions.
More intertidal life and beach pics!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Deli Rye

Maybe it's the sweet flavor of the caraway seeds, maybe it's the flavor added by the rye flour, maybe it's the aroma, or, maybe it's the combination of it all - but, wow, this deli rye bread may end up being my all-time favorite!
From Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, this list of ingredients will make four one-pound loaves.
3 cups warm water
1-½ tablespoon yeast
1-½+ tablespoon caraway seeds
1-½ tablespoon salt
1 cup rye flour
5-½ cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Cornmeal for the pizza peel
No kneading and so very easy to make, here's what you do! Mix the yeast, salt and caraway seeds in the warm water.
Stir in the rye flour, then the all-purpose flour. I use a spatula and mix until it is all blended in, but a mixer could be used instead. Let the dough rest at room temperature until it has doubled in size. At this point, you can pull off a chunk to form into a loaf to raise on a board sprinkled with a little cornmeal. Or, you can cover the container and keep it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, baking up a fresh loaf as desired. Once a loaf has been shaped, let it double in size at room temperature.
Make a cornstarch wash by blending ½ teaspoon of cornstarch in a small amount of water to form a paste. Then add ½ cup of water and whisk in until the cornstarch is dissolved. Microwave until the mixture appears glassy, about 30 to 60 seconds on high. Leftover glaze can be stored for up to two weeks in the regrigerator and used each time you bake another loaf. Using a brush, spread the cornstarch wash over the top of the loaf and sprinkle with caraway seeds. Slice the top of the loaf with a knife.
Preheat a baking stone in a 450 degrees Fahrenheit oven. Place a flat pan of water on the shelf below the baking stone to add humidity to the oven to help make a crisp crust on your loaf. Slide the prepared loaf onto the hot stone in your oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of your loaf, or until the crust is dark and crisp.
Making deli rye artisan bread.

Let the loaf cool, slice and enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cardboard Resolve

The excess layers of cardboard issue is resolved! Gardeners and community volunteers signed up to work shifts in the garden this weekend. Our assignment, to place three layers of cardboard in the bottom of the raised beds. Upon my arrival to work my designated shift, I was surprised to see that ALL of the beds had already been filled with cardboard. So full was mine, however, that it was half full in places! No doubt filled by a well-meaning volunteer, thank you, I think!
Today, when none of the volunteers were there, I went to the gardens to remove those excess layers of cardboard from my assigned raised bed. My goal, to free up enough space in my assigned space to allow room to add at least enough soil in which to plant my seeds and possibly grow a few carrots. Wow, with plenty of layers remaining, look at the pile of excess cardboard I pulled out!
Walking back to my car, I looked at the many empty beds in our community garden and tried to imagine what it will look like once we have the soil in each bed, and then what it will look like once all of our vegetables and flowers are growing.
Can you imagine?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gardens and Politics

The two - gardens and politics - should not be mixed! At least, that certainly is the case with our new Cordata Community Gardens. It seems the leaders of the Cordata Neighborhood Association are bickering with those that have been designing and leading the startup efforts of our garden and with the City of Bellingham, Public Works, Water, Permitting and Planning Departments. People are threatening to quit - or have already resigned - and the master gardener working with us threatens to walk off the project too. "Taking the deal we're getting on the dirt because of his contacts with him if he goes," he said, if an apology is not received.

We gardeners within listening range are being told that the City of Bellingham has "shut down" our garden anyway by not allowing delivery of the soil needed to fill the raised beds without some sort of approval process from them first - and they (the City) will not put in our water meter, further stalling the start of water service to our garden. It really does sound as if we have been "shut down"! We gardeners feel caught in the middle! Is this a power struggle? Is it political? Is it personalities? Is it drama? Please don't expect us to take sides!

We just want to garden! We've signed our contracts and paid our money. Now we just want to plant our seeds and watch them grow - to save some money this growing season by raising our own fresh, organic produce to add to our family meals.
Meanwhile, instructions from our "leaders" said we must sign up to work a shift in the garden this weekend and place three layers of cardboard in the bottom of our assigned raised beds. Upon arrival at the garden at my designated shift, I was surprised to see that ALL of the beds had already been filled with cardboard. So filled was mine, however, that it was half full in some places!No doubt filled by a well-meaning volunteer (thank you, I think!). When no volunteer shifts are scheduled, I shall go and remove the excess layers of cardboard from my spot so that if the City ever does grant permission for the delivery of our soil, there will at least be adequate room in my spot to add enough dirt in which to plant my seeds. Then, let's just hope for rain in case that delay in getting the water meter installed drags on.
Hopefully, this is not a sign of what to expect for the rest of our gardening season! Why is it that I'm feeling secretely delighted to be already on the waiting list with the City of Bellingham for one of their already-established community garden spots for next year?!
Turns out the Cordata Community Gardens and Cordata Neighborhood had never submitted their 501c not-for-profit paperwork and the gardens really was not qualified to accept any of the grants they have ben already awarded, and were turned down for others. Scurrying around and bickering amongst the board members, rumor in the garden was that they ended up using the Boys and Girls Club 501c number so that they could keep the WSU Mary Redmond and City of Bellingham Small and Simply Grants monies. Later some of the board members resigned from the board, but continue to oversee the operations of the gardens. One day while I was there pulling weeds from in and around my little garden spot, the President of the Cordata Neighborhood Association came by for her own private tour. She stopped at my garden to visit with me as I worked and informed me that the people in charge of this garden needed to pay back the monies the neighborhood assocition had provided them as "seed" money to get the garden up and running. Just amazing!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Beach Monitor Training

As a Spring snow storm was dumping on Denver,I was outside enjoying the sun and beach at Marine Park with fellow classmates practicing beach monitoring techniques as part of our WSU Beach Watchers Program training.
Beach monitoring field equipment
A lesson in reading a compass.
Using the profile poles, we practice reading and taking measurements as we learn how to determine elevation changes on a beach.
Compass readings and measurements are taken from a designated starting point in order to find the profile and transect lines for each beach to be monitored.
The beach floor is examined for composition and critters, recording our findings on field data sheets.
Reference materials help us with the identification of the various intertidal species we find.
Further instruction on the technique for placing transects is received.
More measurements are taken along the transect line and flags set in place.
A quadrat set in place, ready for evaluation and data recording.
More beach monitor training photos.