Sunday, January 31, 2010

2nd Annual Seed Swap

In honor of National Seed Swap Day, a host of organizations (Forest Garden Urban Ecology Center, Center for Local Self Reliance, Sustainable Bellingham, Food Not Lawns, Earthcare Garden Designs and Transition Whatcom) sponsored our 2nd Annual Seed Swap. Held in downtown Bellingham at the Center for Expressive Arts, this was my first year to attend. Said to be for anyone with extra seeds to share or for those wanting seeds to grow, a presentation on why and how to save your own seeds was of particular interest to me.Hoping to learn something about seed saving and maybe pick out some varieties of beans that were well suited for drying, within minutes of entering the room, I felt welcomed by the group and knew that I would be very glad that I had attended this seed swap. I particularly enjoyed how shortly after the opening of the event, different people told a little about the history of some of the seeds they had brought to share. After listening to just the first few stories and their offers to share, I felt that this seed swap should have more appropriately been called a "seed sharing". They were amazing, heartwarming stories that left me wishing that I had ten times the garden space so that I could grow at least a few of each of their precious seeds and feed all my friends and everyone up and down my block. Here is just one of the many tables that was filled with seeds at the swap.One man shared a generous supply of Heirloom Imperial Scarlet Beans with me. Those beans, saved year after year, originated from a small supply carried in a pocket in 1912 all the way from northern Italy to Seattle. Said to have prolific yields on their 10' to 15' long runners, I can't wait to see what kind of trellis I'm going to be making this summer in order to successfully accommodate these beans. He had another bucket of special beans with him too, and said they had been originally brought to Ely, Minnesota by Slovakian immigrants in the early 1900s. Now, he simply calls them Ely Beans as even though the beans themselves have carried on year after year, over time the actual name of those beans got lost. He said they are excellent eaten as green beans, and when allowed to dry, make some of the best chili ever.

Remember, one of the reasons I had attended this seed swap was because I was interested in beans that would be good dried, but by the time I walked out of there, besides having been able to talk about growing things with the many awesome gardener friends I made there, those with seeds to share had not only loaded me up with their great stories, but loaded my bag up with seeds too.
Here's what I got:
  • Beka Brown Bush (from Krista's Bean Project* garden)
  • Blue Lake Pole (from Krista's Bean Project* garden)
  • Molasses Face Bush - Dry (from Krista's Bean Project* garden)
  • Black Turtle (from Krista's Bean Project* garden)
  • Ely Beans
  • Imperial Scarlet Beans
  • Painted Lady Beans
  • Organic Bean Blend - Bush (a mix of Royalty Purple Pod, Golden Wax and Dragon Tongue)
Wow, looking over that list of beans, it did get a lot. Except for the Imperial Scarlet Beans that were so generously shared with me, in most cases, however, I received as few as only 6 to 8 beans in many of the other varities. Often splitting the contents of a small packet that had already been made up with another gardener so that we could both try them, it looks like some of us will have our own Bean Project* garden.

While I haven't yet sketched out where exactly in my gardens each of these wonderful varities of beans will be planted, I suspect the best way for me to plant most of them will be in hills rather than rows. It's certainly a wonderful assortment of beans, and they all seem most appropriate to be included in my participation with the Growing Challenge, EXTREME Evangelistic Edition this year.

With the goal of saving seeds from each again for next year, I feel the need to first do a little research in not only how to grow each of these varieties, but more specifically in how close, or far, from each other they need to be planted so that I don't end up with a bunch of cross-pollinated beans at the end of this season.


  • Iron Leaf Spinach
  • America Spinach
Organic Herbs:
  • Cilantro
  • Dill - Bouquet
  • Parsley - Moss Curled
Organic Carrots:
  • Atomic Red
  • Gourmet Carrot Blend - Red, Purple, White, Yellow and Orange

Organic Radishes:

  • Cherry Belle
  • Pink Beauty
  • Sparkler
Other Vegetables:
  • Champion Collards
  • Organic Dark Green Zucchini
  • Jester Marigolds
  • Crocosmia Lucifer - bulbs, some with tender shoots
More pics from the 2nd Annual Seed Swap.

Like one of the speakers at the seed swap said, "we were there to pursue the survival of the species - and have a good time." This seed swap, an absolute success. And we certainly did have a good time!
* Krista's Bean Project garden came about because over the years the history of heirloom beans that do well here in the Pacific Northwest had gotten lost - but the bean seeds had not. So, Krista said she grew beans and grew beans and grew beans, year after year in her garden (which really sounded to me to be a bit more like a good sized farm than merely a garden) and documented her findings, coming up with a list of beans that are best suited to our cooler temperatures and somewhat shorter growing season.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Growing Challenge

Sponsored by One Green Generation, this year's Growing Challenge, EXTREME Evangelistic Edition sounded fun and I wanted in. Here are their rules: 1. Grow 3 crops from seed, 2. Plant the seeds in 3 new people (by inspiring them to grow plants from seed) and 3. Tell the stories about my seed plantings - here. Also, because I'm participating in the "EXTREME" Evangelistic Edition of the challenge, there's one more rule: 4. Make it seed to seed.

Identifying three new crops to grow from seed this year in my garden seems easy enough. My Crop Number 1 will be those German Pink tomato seeds that my son shared. I chose them because even though I've been gardening most of my life, I have never raised German Pink tomatoes, nor have I ever grown my own tomato plants from seed before. Also, because these seeds were collected by my son from tomatoes he grew himself from seeds given to him by his neighbor gardener, and are from seeds saved from heirloom Pink German Tomatoes originally brought over from Germany years before, they seem to be a most appropriate crop.My crops Number 2 and 3, the Waltham Butternut Squash and the Round French Zucchini seeds shared with me by the gardener/blogger over at 14 Acres blogspot. Again, I selected these crops because I have never grown either of these varieties before, and because they are organic, open pollinated heirloom seeds collected by another gardener.
Meeting the challenge of inspiring three new people to grow crops from seeds this year shouldn't be too difficult either. Often told that I am a natural at providing positive inspiration, already I have a few friends in mind.

Having that extra challenge of "seed to seed" is a good opportunity for me, and I feel, could turn out to be my most rewarding. Considering myself a newbie at seed gathering, last year I rather accidentally experimented with gathering borage seeds from my garden. The borage I grew came to me as seedlings started by another gardener, but when the shallow gardening beds at the Cordata Community Gardens turned out to have been filled with a poor quality fill dirt and then got fried by extremely high summer temps, I managed to salvage two of those borage plants by transplanting them to my Happy Valley Community Garden spot. Not sure how they would do after having suffered from both the stressful growing conditions at the Cordata Gardens and a mid-season transplant, to my delight they seemed to thrive once settled in at Happy Valley. Their blooms were pretty.One day while pruning away some of their overgrowth, little black seeds simply fell into my hands, thus beginning my experience at gathering seeds. Now I'm look forward to growing my very own borage seedlings this spring - seed to seed. This EXTREME Evangelist Edition challenge will provide me the opportunity to learn more about cultivating those German Pink Tomatoes, Waltham Butternut Squash and Round French Zucchini in such a manner that I can successfully collect some of their seeds to grow again next year. What a fun challenge this will be!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fragrant Hyacinth Blooms

The rewards of forcing bulbs is rather quickly realized once January rolls around. Last fall, I filled flower pot after flower pot with soil, stuffed in some tulip and hyacinth bulbs, set the pots aside in my Happy Valley Community Garden spot, mulched them with straw and, quite simply, ignored them until recently. I brought a few of the pots inside a few weeks ago. Now, the sweet fragrance of springtime hyacinth blooms fills our living room.
And there's a row of tulip buds forming on the window sill.
Watch how they've grown over the last few weeks.

With more pots of bulbs buried under the mulch in my garden yet to bring in, what a cheerful boost for the middle of winter.
Here's how I did it:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Le Corsaire Pas De Deux

What a treat, great seats at the Mt. Baker Theatre to see the Harlem Dance Troupe.
Here two of the dancers perform a set from Le Corsaire Pas De Deux, a mere sampling of the program I enjoyed.

For a list of upcoming shows at the Mount Baker Theatre, go here -

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thanks for the Seeds

Big thanks go out to the Minnesota blogger at 14 Acres for the generous sharing of garden seeds. Mine have arrived! Said to have quite the stockpile that needed reducing, this blogger offered her excess seeds to those of us that were interested. I requested Waltham Butternut Squash and Round French Summer Squash.

Butternut squash is absolutely my favorite winter squash. Roasting it, baking it and making soup with it, I can't seem to grow too many and had no seeds leftover from last year. Open pollinated and organically grown, the parent buttenut squash seeds I received from the 14 Acres blogger originally came from the Seed Savers Exchange.

I also love the summer squashes. They're great fresh in salads, as a snack, stir fried, baked, stuffed, pureed and turned into soups, grated and added to breads, sliced and made into pickles, I think once I even made cookies out of them - need I say more? I've grown the regular green and yellow zucchinis, assorted colors of pattypans and yellow crockneck, but I have never grown round zucchinis. They look so cute, round like an eight ball. They should make the perfect vessel for hollowing out and filling with tasty stuffings. The parent seeds of these Round French Summer Squash, originally certified organic seeds from Seeds of Change.

Thank you so very much, and what generous quantities you sent! What a fun garden year this is already, and I've barely gotten started.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cup of Cake

Have you ever wanted cake for dessert but didn't think about it until the last minute, then only to discover that you didn't even have a cake mix on hand?Well, if you have a coffee mug, a measuring spoon, a microwave and these basic ingredients, in a matter of minutes you can have your cake - and eat it too.
Cake in a Cup Recipe
4 Tablespoons Flour
4 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cocoa
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons Milk (I use chocolate)
3 Tablespoons Oil
Measure the dry ingredients directly into the cup and stir to blend. Add the egg, milk and oil to the dry ingredients in the cup, stirring until well mixed.
Microwave on high for three minutes and let rest for one.
Tip the cake out onto a plate and serve. This recipe makes two servings, so enjoy.
Step-by-step, how to make a Cup of Cake

Cake couldn't get much easier or faster than this. Plus it doesn't have that funny aftertaste that mixes or those Betty Crocker Warm Delights have, and it's a mere fraction of the price.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

King Mountain

With beautiful views and hiking trails, King Mountain is definitely one of the local favorites. I had new trekking poles and this was the perfect place to try them out. I was wondering if I would find the poles useful and still be able to hang on to a leash, have a pack on my back and somehow manage NOT to drop my camera off the cliff each time I stopped to take another picture. Turns out, I can. I must confess, though, because King Mountain is slated as a possible future park rather than a "real" park and is not posted as a "dogs on leash only" area, most of the time Torrie was running free.Shocked to hear that he was referred to as geriatric recently by the vet (is he really that old - already?), Torrie still loves exploring and acts like a pup when he's running down a trail. He's a fun dog to take a hike with and can certainly still run circles around me.
More King Mountain pics.

Sunset, still coming too early this time of year, as viewed over distant Bellingham Bay from the top of King Mountain was none-too-colorful at the end of this day's hike.
Getting there and other notes: To get to the top of King Mountain, from Meridian Street take Kellogg Road east and follow it up the hill past the King Mountain Church and on through a small neighborhood until you reach James Street Road. Turn left on James Street Road and follow it until it turns into Gooding Road. Climb Gooding Road until you reach the top where the road dead ends at the Verizon cell towers. The entrance is just to the right of the Verizon fence. If the gate is open, visitors drive in until they reach a small parking lot. When the gate is closed, visitors park in the gravel area outside the Verizon fence. The trails are assessible just past the parking lot. Because it is only a possible future park, the trails are not regularly maintained but do seem to be get enough use to keep them fairly easy to navigate.
Happy trails!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Digging Up Daisies

To this day, daisies conjure up fond memories of stuffing handfuls of them into glasses filled with colorful water. Growing up in the country with meadows full of daisies that seemed just waiting to be picked, my parents must have been pretty generous with the food coloring because it seemed that each summer we girls made more than our share of pretty, colored flowers. That's why when I heard that Catrina was cleaning up her garden and had plenty of perennials to share, I said I'd take some. Grabbing a shovel, I dug bunches of Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum), Red Valerians (Centranthus ruber) and Rose Campions (Silene coronaria) to add to the flowers already in my Happy Valley garden.My next stop was my garden so that I could clean out a space for my new plants and get them back into the ground as soon as possible.
The Shasta Daisies went between a big clump of delphinium and the fence. Then on each side, I placed the Rose Campions with the Red valerian in front. They should make a pretty contrast of color with all their purples and pinks against those big white daisies with such deep yellow centers. I like that they all make nice cutting flowers too. Last year carrots and beets grew there, but with twice the garden space for 2010, I can still grow plenty of carrots - and have lots of room for flowers.
After I had finished transplanting all my new periennials, I took the time to wonder over to my new garden spot. A portion of my new space was not fenced and the City had said they would survey it and place stakes around to mark the boundaries. I was curious to see if they had gotten that done yet. Sure enough, they had. They not only had marked the boundaries on the end that was not fenced, but they also placed stakes about eight inches outside of the entire length of the existing fence. Looks like my new garden is supposed to be a bit bigger than its current fenced area. I guess it's a good thing that I already had plans to redo that fence.
More Digging Up Daisies and garden pics.


Friday, January 22, 2010

So what if it's January!

It is true, normally the ugliest part of our winter weather hits us here in the Pacific Northwest from the middle of January until the middle of February. It's usually one heavy rainstorm after another supplemented with the occasional snow storm and maybe a hard freeze or two. But not this winter. This winter, we're saying, "So what if it's January!" Unable to resist the lovely view of the islands behind Bellingham Bay from the coffee shop at the park, for the second afternoon in a row, with my Golden Retriever Torrie, we found ourselves out enjoying the trails around Boulevard Park, Taylor Dock and Fairhaven.
Knowing that soon enough these vines would be sprouting back to life, I thought they looked extra strong as they basked in the January sun.
More "So What if it's January" pics.

And tomorrow, we'll tackle King Mountain.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Save 40% on Garden Seeds

My feet make squishy sounds when I walk on the wood-chip covered pathway between the raised beds at my Happy Valley Community Garden spot. It's only January, and even though it was pushing 60 degrees today, I know that winter is far from over around here so tomorrow could be a totally different story. It's way too early to plant anything outside, but it did seem an appropriate time to inventory my seed stash, update my seeds inventory spreadsheet and give some serious thought as to what I want to plant, when and where for the upcoming 2010 gardening season.Last year I created an Excel workbook with a spreadsheet to track my seeds inventory, another to tally my gardening costs and one for diagraming the layout of my garden. This worked out very well for me, but I found that when I set up my seeds inventory spreadsheet, I had included a few columns that had perhaps sounded good at the time, but in reality turned out to be not particularly useful. There was also other data that, looking back, I had wished that I had tracked - like the quantities of fruits, vegetables, herbs and cut flowers I had harvested, and their approximate values at the local Farmer's Market or organic farm stands. So, not only did I end up inventorying and oganizing my seed stash, I made some major changes to my original spreadsheet.
I also began sketching out drafts of my garden spaces so I could start creating the planting diagrams to use for my two 10' X 40' garden spaces.
After completing my seed stash inventory, I drafted a list of the additional seeds and plants I would need to purchase this year, and clipped this coupon from the Fred Meyer weekly ads in anticipation of saving a little money on my seed purchases.
Ed Hume has the reputation of being one of the highest regarded garden experts here in the Pacific Northwest, so I certainly trust the quality of their seeds. Saving 40 percent sounded good to me too, so here is the list of Ed Hume and Lilly Miller seeds I purchased using the coupon:
  • Summer Squash - Crookneck (Hybrid Bush), Scallop Bush Mix (Summer Pattypan Types) and Yellow Zucchini (49er Hybrid Bush)
  • Cucumbers - Muncher (Tender and Burpless), SMR-8 (Pickling Variety), Marketmore 76 (slicing), Armenian (Cucumis Melo) and Lemon (Cucumis Sativus)
  • Beans - Rattlesnake Snap (Pole), Stringless Horticultural Beans (Horto Semi-Bush) and Lima (Burpee Bush)
  • Parsnips - Andover
  • Bok Choy
  • Leeks - Giant Musselburg
  • Peas - Oregon Giant Snow Peas and Oregon Sugar Pod II
  • Egg Plant - Long purple
  • Sweet Corn - Peaches & Cream (Hybrid SE Bicolor)
  • Sweet Peas - Royal Family Mixture (Climbing Variety)

Wanting to grow soy beans last year in my garden but after forgetting to include them in my 2009 seed order and unsuccessful at finding any available locally, when I saw packs of soy beans on the New Dimension Seeds rack, in addition to the Ed Hume and Lilly Miller seeds I bought, I also purchased two packs of Sweet Sansei Soy Beans (Edamame).
Not usually big on "gadgets", I did buy this Mini-Seedmaster too. It seems that year after year, I over plant row after row of those tiny seeded vegetables - like lettuce, carrots, parsnips, etc. Then, I always end up having to do some serious thinning. I have considered making my own seed tapes using this method - Best-Ever Seed Tape - as a solution, but I just never seem to get around to making up all those seed tapes. Having seen these Mini-Seedmaster gadgets in almost every seed catalog I have ever received and have thought that perhaps I should buy one, here it is, my impulse buy of the season.My new Mini-Seedmaster promises to make "planting small seeds easier and faster." The packaging goes on to say, "With the help of the Mini-Seedmaster, you can accurately and easily plant the smallest of seeds," and that it "Helps prevent seed waste while eliminating the need for thinning." Is this just a marketing ploy? Has anyone ever used one of these little gadgets? Do they really work? Or, or did I waste my money?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Free Coffee

Watch for me and other members of the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) at the northbound Bow Hill rest stop on February 5th, 6th and 7th. Beginning at noon on Friday, February 5th, all day long, all night long, all weekend long, we will be participating in the Washington State Department of Transportation's Free Coffee Program, until well past midnight and on into the wee hours on the 8th. This Free Coffee Program is a public service set up at Safety Rest Areas. The service benefits travelers by offering free coffee and baked goods. Also a great fundraiser for not-for-profit organizations, the WMMSN will benefit by receiving 100% of all donations made by visitors during our free coffee service.
If you find yourself driving up Interstate 5 that weekend, we would love it if you stopped by to meet our group. We'll offer you a great tasting cup of coffee and some yummy baked goods - for free. We love telling people about some of the stranded harbor seals that we have rescued and sent off for rehabilitation, so do be prepared to hear some heartwarming stories.
Our donations jar will be on the counter, so if you're so inclined, your donation would be greatly appreciated. Donations help our organization purchase some of the necessary supplies we use when out on a beach in response to a stranded, distressed marine mammal. If you won't be travelling up Interstate 5 the weekend we are hosting the Free Coffee Program but still would like to make a contribution, please contact Mariann, our Principal Investigator, at 360-303-3608, or at Thank you, in advance, for your generousity!
The Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) is an organization of volunteers that are dedicated to the care of distressed or deceased marine mammals. Under an authority granted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the WMMSN does the following:
  • Respond to reports of stranded, distressed or deceased marine mammals.
  • Assess the condition of stranded marine mammals and determine how best to help them.
  • Prevent human contact and interference with stranded marine mammals to protect both the mammals and the humans.
  • In some cases, careful and safe removal of deceased marine mammals.
  • Determine why marine mammals died, performing necropsies when necessary.
  • Determine if stranded or deceased marine mammals pose a biological threat to humans or other marine life.
  • Educate the public about local marine mammals and how best to cohabitate with them.

If you share a love and concern for our local marine mammals, there are many ways you can help as a volunteer. If you would like to find out more about volunteering, please contact me, the Director of Volunteers, at

Wouldn't it be fun if you stopped by!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Kriss

The birthday girl . . .
Complete with the best of friends, great food and entertainment, what a fun party it was.
Torrie sure had a great time!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Garden Space

How does your garden grow this time of year? Mine just doubled in size! Complete with a fallen tree branch, here it is, my second 10' X 40' garden space at the Happy Valley Community Gardens.
Leasing community garden space annually from the City of Bellingham through the Department of Parks & Recreation, last year my garden consisted of two 10' X 20' spaces back to back, making it 10' X 40'. With raised beds and square-foot gardening techinques, I felt it a very successful gardening season. I harvested a lot, ate healthy, organically-grown vegetables and saved a tremendous amount of money on my grocery bill. But, I really wanted more gardening space. I wanted to grow more vegetables, more flowers, maybe even plant more raspberries and blueberries.
The City's community garden leasing policy generously allows up to four 10' X 20' spaces to be leased per family. The only reason I confined myself to gardening in only two spaces was because that was all the City had available back when my name reached the top of their waiting list. It being a new year and knowing that many gardeners continue their gardens year after year (I fall into that catagory!), I also knew that some would not - especially given the fact that the City raised the price from $18 to $25 per 10' X 20' space for 2010 (still a very reasonable price in my humble opinion!). Since the deadline for continuing gardeners to pay for this year has already come and gone, today on a whim I stopped by the Parks office to see if they had any spaces available. I was in luck, they had several. So, off to the Happy Valley Community Gardens I went, garden map in hand, to check out the available spaces.
I had the entire community gardens to myself as I walked the grounds. Some of the available spaces had more weeds than others, some more rocks, and some were covered almost completely with grass. I finally made my selection, two more back-to-back spaces that looked as if the previous gardeners had done a decent job of clearning it last fall. So, standing there in my new, additional garden spaces, I called the parks office to let them know.
While I had been thinking that it would have been so lazy convenient if my new garden spaces bordered my existing space. But they don't. My new spots are up the hill and a little way from my established garden. Looks like I'll be getting even more exercise while gardening next season. But, if you know me at all, you'd know that I would like that.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Garden in a Jar

It's winter, and it's wet and cold outside. My garden is soggy and dormant, and it will be months before I can get back in there to grow anything. But still, I crave that fresh, juicy crunch of veggies that I have grown myself. So, what do I do? I take my gardening to a jar and grow my own tasty sprouts on my kitchen counter.Sprouting seeds is easy, and no special equipment is required. All you need is a clean jar, some cheese cloth and a rubber band. Basically all you do is rinse, soak, drain, let sit, rinse, drain, let sit, rinse again, drain again, let sit again and continue that for five or six days. Visable sprout grouth can be seen each time you repeat the rinse, drain and let sit steps. The entire process from seed to table takes less than one week, making the reward of growing your own sprouts pretty fast. Don't I wish that radishes would grow that quickly in the spring!
The water poured off during the draining process is chocked full of nutritients, so on plant-watering day, rather than just dumping it all down the drain, some of that water is reserved for my house plants.
Preferring to buy my goods locally, locating quality sprouting seeds was a challenge for me. Our Community Food Co-Op was the only store in our county where I was able to find sprouting seeds available. I was disappointed with what they carried, however, as they had a very limited selection and they were priced considerably higher than if ordered online - even after adding in shipping charges. The seeds that I purchased from them may not have been particularly fresh either as they took a few days longer than most sprouting seeds to sprout, and they had a very poor germination rate.

I ended up finding a supplier of high-quality, organic sprouting seeds online at They not only carry a long list of seeds to select from but I consider their prices very reasonable. Their seeds are certified organic, seem very fresh and have a very high germination rate. Wheat Grass Kits also carries several sprouters if you want to use something other than just a plain old jar in which to grow your sprouts. My orders are always received within three or four days - even when placed during a weekend.

Here's how I garden in a jar.


It is important to utilize food safe, sanitary conditions when growing your own sprouted seeds in order to prevent the growth of bacteria. Several years ago, there were reports of e coli in sprouts so stores pulled sprouts and sprouting seeds from their shelves. Guidelines for safely growing your own sprouts at home have been made available, and UC Davis has published such a guide. You will find their guideline here -

Happy sprouting!