Saturday, June 28, 2008

Summer is finally here

Looks like summer has finally come to the Pacific Northwest, and with it, our local produce choices seem to increase almost daily. Over the past couple of week I've gone to the Lake Forest Park Farmers' Market on Sunday afternoons, and it's just getting bigger and bigger.

A couple of weeks ago the big thing was peas, a big spring crop in the Northwest. For the first time in my life, I bought English peas and shucked them so I could make a lovely braised pea and mushroom dish. Served it alongside Salmon caught just two days before I bought it from the Washington fisherman and his family at the same market.

And finally, fruit! Cherries are big right now. I bought a pound of those, and a pound of apriums (apricot + plum) this past weekend. Delicious! Definitely going back for more.

This week the big deal is local strawberries. They had been delayed by our freakishly cold spring, but they finally made it. Over at Yakima Fruit Market, they sold out within hours the first day they got them in. We have been waiting for these luscious beauties. Today, my own balcony strawberry pot yielded the above tiny bowlful of the sweetest strawberries I have ever tasted. And there's lots more fruit waiting to ripen. Not bad for a container garden.

Tomorrow is the Strawberry Festival at the market. Can't wait!

I think I'm going to have to make jam this year…

…if I can stop eating them. :)

Chickens - at home!

Now that I'm home for a bit, I was finally able to go retrieve my chickens from their fostering place a couple of nights ago (thanks again Suzy!!!)

These chicks had never been in a coop before - so it has necessitated physically putting them in and locking the door at night for a few nights until they get used to it. Here they are rather dubiously examining their new abode.

Also, never really having been in a 'yard' before, they were quite cautious about leaving the coop for the first time and coming out to explore (they've totally gotten over that already).

The yard has branches and stumps to roost on. Lots of dirt to scratch in (I'm beginning to wonder if they're going to dig holes big enough to go under the enclosure fencing), their food, water, and 'treats' from the garden and the kitchen.

My other animals are absolutely entranced. Jack, the black lab, keeps running around the coop - tail waving and barking his 'playplayplay' bark. Mia, on the other hand, can hardly keep from stealth-attack mode (undeterred as she is by the chicken wire separating them. I think she's going to have chicken wire shaped bruises on her head if she keeps this up).

All in all, they seem happy and content with their lot. We're working on naming them now that we can watch their personalities. They're young enough (2 months old) that they still 'peep' instead of cluck, and they don't have all of their adult plumage yet, so there is more growing to do.

I suspect Mia thinks they should be called McNugget. :-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Early summer berries -

Picked my first bowl of strawberries of the season today -

It's always interesting, after spending a bit of time away, to see what has happened in your yard without you there watching.... Some things didn't get watered as much as I would have wished. The weeds grew regardless. Some things are finally sprouted and look like they are growing nicely. Some things never did come up...

Spent a bit of time outside doing some basic clean-up. Got the lawn mowed, the gardens and pots watered, some weeds pulled, some lanky vines tied to their posts - and a few things harvested....

Fresh-picked strawberries for dessert tonight...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Finally, the Sun!

various lettuces I planted back in May before the sun went into hiding again

Reading over Tara's recent posts, I've realized a few things. First off, I'm so jealous of her yard! Her wonderful garden and her beautiful chickens! How can an apartment dweller like myself compete?! Following on that thought I remember that was my purpose in starting this blog - sharing how I do go about trying to lead a more locavore lifestyle, even without a yard, and within a budget. So often I see people saying they can't follow a locavore diet and/or eat organic food because it's too expensive, and I want to show that healthy eating can indeed be done on a budget.

And lastly, I really need to post more often.

Well, the sun has finally made an appearance here in the Seattle area, and it's making me feel all sorts of rejuvenated, and I feel a renewed commitment to keeping up with this blog. In the near future look for posts on my little container garden, the farmers' markets I've been attending, books I've been reading, recipes I've been trying…

Talk to you soon!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Teen-age chickens -

Got to visit my chickens one last time tonight before my Big Adventure. They'll come 'home' to their nearly finished coop (it just needs painted) after my return.

Here is my 'dark blue-lace Wyandotte' - which is apparently no such thing! Looks an awful lot like a barred rock to me... (I did find reference to a blue-barred Wyandotte online.... Maybe it's that?)

The auracana - with just a hint of the 'ear muffs' beginning..

And the other 'blue-lace' - ha! She is now barely dusted with grey, with a small sprinkling of dark speckles... No sign of lacing in sight. I'm not impressed with labeling of chicken-breeds-as-chicks at the store where I bought them...

We'll see if they morph into anything else as they continue to mature...

My friend who is hosting these for me has a number of lovely chickens, including a flock of tiny, rare suramas. Here is the handsome little rooster. Don't you love the shape of this guy? The large, upright tail which begins nearly at the base of his neck....

No roosters for me!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Unremitting grey...

(Views from the studio window)

We have had nothing but grey skies and drizzle/rain for nearly a week. It's June! I feel silly turning the heat back on, but the temps don't make it out of the 50s and it's chilly in the house.

I've been fighting a cold as well, so the rain makes it too daunting to want to do any more work on the gardens... I just sit here bleakly - seeing the things that need done, having no emotional or physical energy to do them...

The constant watering is good for the seeds I put in, I suppose. You can see a haze of green in patches - for the things that it is not too cool for germination. Not much growth beyond that though until the temperatures pick up a bit.

Unless you are a Jerusalem artichoke! I tried really hard to clean ALL of them out of this bed this spring (they are relocated to a more appropriate growing venue.) An exercise in futility, apparently - see the thick, lush strip of pointy leafed green next to the fence? That's apparently what I missed. (You wouldn't guess that I dug up buckets of tubers this spring. The amount growing is just as heavy as last year.) If/when it ever dries or warms up a bit, I will have to see if I can make another attempt to remove them from here.

The thing I am the saddest about is all the blooming things (English thyme above). I have seen fewer bees and other pollinating insects than ever this year, and the rain makes it even more difficult for them to make their rounds. From what I can tell thus far, less than half of my cherries and blueberries were fertilized this spring, for instance.

Would it be too much to ask for a bit of sunshine?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Works in progress -

Here is a view of my new, partially completed chicken coop and run - built under a large fir tree in the back corner of my yard. The dog house, which is being re-tooled as a coop, has a bit more remodeling and repainting necessary..

It is nestled by the back fence, by the composters (and wheelbarrow full of last year's greens ready to add to them).

I added a couple of new raised beds this spring - which needed more dirt than I had at hand - so another project-in-progress - we dug out the foundation for my pending, proposed greenhouse...

So, as June 1st, I think a record for *late*, this is the state of the raised beds. The far back left is still waiting to be cleaned out and replanted, but the next three have starts and seeds in the ground. The foreground three on the right are (from left to right) new strawberries, old strawberry bed and raspberry bed. (And what you can see in the front right is the kiwi trellis).

And even with this ridiculously chilly weather, punctuated by only a few hot days thus far this year, here's hoping that there is enough summer to come for harvesting.