Saturday, April 24, 2010

WSDOT Incident Response Team

WSDOT Incident Response Team to the rescue! Heading down the highway on a trip, I was barely out of the city limits when all of a sudden one of my rear tires blew up. It didn't just go flat, it literally exploded. Boom! Somehow I managed to get the car under control enough to be able to come to a stop along the side of the road. When still juggling my cell phone to call for roadside assistance and fumbling through the manual to see just where they might have hidden the spare, I glanced up into the rearview mirror and saw a WSDOT guy getting out of his truck - with a jack in hand. Turned out, he knew exactly where the spare was without even having to look it up in the book, and within minutes, had the tire changed.
Back on the road again, I'm off on what should prove to be a very interesting and fun next couple of weeks. Yeah, WSDOT Incident Response Team guy, you're my hero!!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Barry's House - Green Roof

The building of Barry's house continues, and more and more it becomes obvious that moving day is in the not-so-distant future. The building, now completely enclosed by windows and doors, is tightly sealed with a layer of Dupont Tyvek HomeWrap and partially covered with siding. Our Pacific Northwest rainstorms should provide a wonderful background sound when those rains pelter down against that dark green metal roof.
The latest pics of Barry's house building project.

Thank you, Barry, for cutting my stack of salvaged lumber.
I constructed six raised bed frames for my new space at the Happy Valley Community Gardens in my Garden Nbr. 2.

I'm sure there will be plenty of produce for sharing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Garden Number 2

It must have something to do with the pleasant Spring weather we've been having, because all of a sudden, plans for my Happy Valley Garden Number 2 are coming together. A day at the gardens though is never complete without first visiting my Garden Number 1.
Second leaves are sprouting on the spinach, bok choy and radishes that I planted a couple of weeks ago, and now I'm looking forward to that first harvest.
Slug nibbles are obvious on the fava beans growing in Garden Number 1, but based on past experience, I am convinced the beans will win this battle between plant and slug without my having to use any nasty chemical deterrents, or waste a good beer.
With Garden Number 1 under control, I can finally focus on my new spot, Garden Number 2, with the removal of the early Spring weeds. Not necessarily the most fun job, yet oh so necessary, you can see that while I am making progress, more work remains.
Propping the salvaged boards that will be used to build the raised beds for this garden up against my fence, a friend's table saw will cut them from 12" wide down to 6". This will double the amount of building materials I have on hand, but based on the sketches I've drawn up of what I want to build, I'll still have to get a few more boards from Kathy. These boards will need to be loaded back into my car for transport to the saw, but at least now I know where NOT to park (see Stuck in the Mud) when doing so.
The truck is lined up for later in the week to haul in a yard or two of 5-way soil mix to fill my new raised beds, and so is help with the unloading of that ton or so of dirt. First, though, I must finish the weeding, get the lumber cut and build those raised beds. Meanwhile, one more day's worth of weeds and debris removed from Garden Number 2 heads to the compost heap.
With a night or two of frost predicted for next week, my goal is to have Garden Number 2 ready to plant by the first of May. Possible? I hope so!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stuck in the Mud

Thank goodness for friends that help look out after each other! One such friend is my better-than-a-sister Kathy. Searching for something to use to confine her new puppy, Jack, to the designated dog area of her car, she called me to inquire where to get discarded fish net. Indicating that she was on her way to the RE Store first, if she couldn't find anything there, her next stop would be that dumpster at the harbor.

Our conversation then turned from fish nets to the RE Store as I mentioned that I had been there recently looking for boards to build raised beds in my new garden space, and that I had been unsuccessful at finding what I needed there. Quite coincidentally, she told me that contractors were replacing the fascia at the apartment complex where she lives, and that she had rescued a stack of boards for a project she had in mind. Realizing that there were plenty more boards yet to be replaced and the fact that she was not quite ready to put that first stack of boards to use, she offered them to me. I'd already had a long day though as I had been to Lynden, been to Ferndale, completed a photo shoot up off the Slater Road of man and his big truck, cooked and shared a dinner with friends, so consequently by the time I went to Kathy's to pick up those boards and had arrived at my garden to unload, it was getting close to dark. Tired and not looking forward to having to carry a stack of lumber any further than necessary, I parked in the grass off to the side of the road near my new garden space and recalled thinking as I felt the wheels of my car settle into those deep ruts that I hoped I would be able to get my car out of that mud when I was ready to leave.

Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy and I was definitely stuck in the mud. I know, I know, this picture doesn't look like my car was stuck at all, but believe me, it was stuck.But that's where that group of friends that help look out after each other comes in handy - as does a querty keyboard on the cell phone and texting. A quick text sent, "are u still in town?" with a reply of "yea" and I knew I wouldn't have to leave my car at the garden for the night, nor would I have to find a way home - in the dark. Ten minutes later, a big van was there with a giant chain and a huge rope. Once we found the flashlights and a place to attach that huge rope to my car, it was pulled out of those big ruts and back onto the stability of the gravel road.The tinkling sound as mud fell off the wheels sounded pretty good as I turned my car onto the pavement to head home. Guess who won't be parking off the gravel again for quite some time?

Friday, April 16, 2010


With plenty of garden space this season, along with the kales, beets, spinach, bok choy and peas that I've already planted, with May 5th the average last frost date here in USDA Hardiness Zone 8a, leeks are another one of those vegetables that can safely be planted outside well before all danger of frost has past. Easy to start from seed, leeks are in the same family as onions and garlic. A long-time favorite fall vegetable, I often use them to make a potato and leek soup, or in stir fries.In the past, I've been limited by the few leeks received in my weekly CSA baskets, or those expensively purchased at our local Farmers Market, but by growing leeks in my own garden, this year I expect that I will have so many, I'll even be giving them away.
Leeks are planted a little differently than onions and garlic because if planted too shallow, they will tend to form more of a bulb, like an onion. In order to force the growth of that desired long white flavorful portion of the leeks, the soil can either be mounded up around the leek as they start to grow, or the starts can be dropped into a hole when transplanted. If simply dropped into a hole, and as the garden is watered and the leeks begin to grow, the soil will slowly fill in around the leek allowing it to properly form. If you are new to growing leeks, here is a YouTube video that explains how to transplant your leek starts into your garden.
I transplanted my leek starts by dropping them into holes that I punched into the soil as I thought this method would allow for more leeks to be planted in a small space. If they appear to be getting so big that they might become be too crowded, I can selectively thin them later in their growing season by harvesting some of the smaller ones in order to create enough space for the others to fully mature.
Planted this early in the season, maybe I'll be harvesting my first leeks by August.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bargain Berries

With prices steadily increasing on almost everything everywhere, bargains in the garden always feel like a wonderful treat to me - sort of like a reward for all that work involved in tending the garden. Take the rhubarb that I dug out of that garden in Bow last fall for example. Although not yet ready to harvest, my mouth waters for rhubarb crisp as I watch it grow this spring. My cost for these rhubarb starts - free.Noticing the $6.75 price tag for each 4" pot of rhubarb starts at Joe's Gardens the other day shocked me a little. I had no clue tiny starts of rhubarb would cost so much. What a bargain I got!
So far this seasn, I've been focusing most of my efforts on my already established garden at the Happy Valley Community Gardens. All of the mulch covering the beds over the winter has been removed, I've pruned the raspberries, planted seeds for some of the early, cooler season crops and done quite a bit of general cleanup there. Except for showing a few friends my new garden space and watching as one of them drug that downed fir branch out of my new garden space though, because that new space is going to need a lot of work before it is ready to plant, I've been waiting, putting that work off a bit until I felt I had the chores of my established garden under control. I just wasn't quite ready to get started.

That day has finally arrived and I have officially (finally!) started working in my new garden. In the process of pulling weeds, making plans to get some aged horse manure hauled in, meeting my new gardening neighbors at that end of the community gardens, I discovered a row of very healthy looking strawberry plants running right down the center of my new garden space.
Strawberries make an excellent ground cover under blueberry bushes, and I have two blueberry bushes. I got them that same afternoon as I got those rhubarb starts (for free!) and I had been considering buying some strawberry plants.
Now I didn't have to buy them because an entire row of strawberries came with my new garden. I spent the rest of the afternoon transplanting those strawberries from my new garden to my old.

What a deal these bargain berries.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Technically, it probably wasn't even Dan's bamboo, but the big patch growing on the neighbor's side of my cousin's fence had spread into his yard and he wanted it thinned out. We cut the tallest stalks and hauled them to my Happy Valley garden. Having built one bamboo trellis last year when the peas outgrew their little wire trellis, with this generous supply of bamboo poles, now I can build more trellises for this season's beans, peas, raspberries, sweet peas, nasturtiums, and any other plants that might do well supported up off the ground.
There were also some old stakes that he had laying around that I was able to salvage.
Seems there's always something that needs to be staked up in the garden, so it will be nice to have this stash already on hand.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Flooded Boardwalk

One of my favorite walks at the Tennant Lake Park in Ferndale is up the stairs to the top of the tower.
I find the view of the Tennant Lake homestead and the red barn at nearby Hovander Homestead Park well worth the climb up those stairs.
Back at ground level, the entryway to the trail that leads to the boardwalk through the wetlands surrounding Tennant Lake had been flooded by the recent rains. Fortunately, we've grown accustomed to flooding in this area so tend keep enough boards over the walkway to provide that extra inch or two necessary in order to walk across without getting your feet too wet. I like looking back to see the reflection of the tower in the flooded boardwalk once I've crossed.
The meadow grasses and trees provide a peaceful reflection into the streams that meander through the wetlands.
In other places, the boardwalk having remained submurged by flood waters for at least a year that I know of (see Tennant Lake blog post from March 2009 here - Great Classrooms-Tennant Lake), are now probably unsafe to pass - even when wearing my highest waterproof boots and using my trekking poles.
More pics from Tennant Lake and Hovander Homestead Parks.

Following the trail from Tennant Lake to the Hovander Homestead Park grounds, the turkey and chicken seemed to enjoy the attention I paid them during my visit.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Seed Grow Project - April 2010

With an average last frost date of May 5th in the northern USDA hardiness Zone 8a in which I garden, it is still a few weeks too early to safely direct sow the Spitfire Climbing Nasturtium seeds chosen for this year's Seed Grow Project in my garden. So I wait.But meanwhile, as a participant of the Seed Grow Project, not only have I received my complimentary packet of Spitfire nasturtium seeds from Renee's Gardens, I also received Renee's Gardens complete media kit.
The media kit included a form for ordering up to eighteen more complimentary packets of Renee's Gardens seeds to try out in our gardens. It didn't take me long to discover that once I started reviewing the write-ups for Renee's exquisite sounding vegetable, herb and flower seeds, it was almost difficult to limit my selection to only eighteen. In less than two week's time, my mailbox was stuffed full with all but one of the complimentary seed packets that I had ordered. I was disappointed that without any explanation, packet #5929, the "French Gold" filet pole beans that I had ordered was omitted from my order. I was so looking forward to trying this bean out in my garden because their write-up made that particular bean sound so good. The French Gold bean was described as being hard-to-find, yellow pole beans, true "haricot verts", classically slim, round 7 to 9 inch pods with a delicate, sweet flavor and a crispy snap that would be heavy bearing and especially choice eating. I guess when Renee says they're "hard-to-find" in her description, it really does mean they are hard to find. Oh well.Even though the strong possibility of a hard frost prevents me from direct sowing the Spitfire nasturtiums for the Seed Grow Project this early in our gardening season, I can report that it's not too early to plant some of those cool-crop vegetables - like Renee's Lacinato Italian Heirloom Kale.
"I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project. Thanks to Renee's Garden for the seeds."