Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fruits From The Garden

Just a few days and we are into the face of August as most of this year seems to have escaped our grasp. The good news is it appears we have gotten a grip on approximately five months of health issues with which we have wrestled. And better news is we have had family visit, friends have joined us for dinners, and the garden seems to be responding rather nicely to our limited efforts.
yesterday's pick
Organic, heirloom and indeterminate is what you will find in our garden when it comes to tomatoes. They grow on larger vines that produce throughout the growing season, whereas the determinate varieties have a more compact height and produce their fruit at approximately the same time.

The tomatoes this year have been as pretty as I can recall. But then we do baby them_growing generally from our saved seeds, using kelp to foster their growth, and paying close attention to our soil by using only compost from our garden and organic fertilizers. No chemicals.

Heirloom lineup
Ashleigh (75-90) Large, somewhat heart-shaped meaty and beautiful red heirloom with great taste. This is a stand-by for us. Nearly a pound.
'Cherokee Purple'
Cherokee Purple (75-90 days) Each year at the top of our list is this Cherokee Indian heirloom, pre-1890 variety that is both delicious and beautiful. Uniquely colored purplish red hue and with dark shoulders, this tomato never disappoints. Up to 1 pound.

Mrs. Maxwell’s Big Italian (75-90) A new variety for us this year and we have yet to analyze. Dark pink beefsteak. 1-2 pounds 

Amish Paste (80-90) Bright red Amish heirloom that is great for sauces, fresh salsa, eating... 8-12 ounce fruits and the second year we have grown this one.

Brandywine (90) Baker Creek Rare Seeds says this is the most popular heirloom vegetable! A favorite of many gardeners, a pink tomato weighing 1 1/2 pound each, so we thought we would give it a go this year. Patiently waiting for the first one to ripen. (not pictured above)

Indigo Rose (about 91 days) deserves a spotlight all its own_ an extraordinary tomato due to its color and the anthocyanin property. Although introduced in 2012 and developed by Oregon State, this is our first year to try the first true purple tomato that was a cross of two heirlooms_ wild species from Chile and the Galapagos Islands. Open pollinated and NON-GMO!

Note: Indigo Rose must be allowed to ripen fully for complete development of sugars and acids. The purple will become a dull purple-brown and the green bottom to red.
'Indigo Rose'
smaller tomatoes
Stupice (55-70 days) A smaller tomato on compact plants and potato leaf foliage, it bears clusters of 2 inch fruits. We love it because it is the first to produce in the garden and great for salads. Additionally, since it hails from the former Czechoslovakia, it produces well in cooler climates. 

Black Cherry (65-75) What can I say? We plant this one every year: beautiful, delicious, great producer, wonderful in salads or simply stand and eat them off the vine. 1 inch in size.

Principe Borghese (70-75) A grape type Italian heirloom that is good for sun drying. The only determinate in our garden and one I would not have purchased but given to us by a neighbor when I baby sat his seedlings for several weeks while he went on vacation in February. Grateful for the plant, but indeterminate is my favorite.
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Beans: The last several years we have grown a wonderful stringless heirloom, Lazy Housewife, and never a string on this bountiful and large, great tasting bean. This year we decided to order the Organic stringless Blue Lake pole bean instead from Sustainable Seed Co and added Renee's Garden_ Spanish 'Musica'_ stringless.

Needless to say we were greatly disappointed in our first 2.5 pound harvest from the stringless Blue Lake Pole Beans as they were anything but! I wrote to them, and this was their response: "many beans no matter how "stringless" will develop strings if the plants are stressed by lack of moisture, excessive heat, or poor soil nutrition".

Sometimes my head wants to explode with pat answers and no admission of a possible problem. My reply indicated that we have plenty of moisture here in the Pacific northwest, and this was the first picking. Where would the stress be? (no response).

Just so you know that right next to this row of beans is the Spanish 'Musica' and without one string! The Lazy Housewife beans grown in years past never had strings. And how long have we had a vegetable garden here? Oh, only about 20 years. (Note: We will never order again from Sustainable Seed.
Note 2: Renee stands by her seeds.)

lower left: Stringless 'Blue Lake' Pole; upper right: Spanish 'Musica'
From our "stringless" beans
Our cabbage this year was extraordinary_ lots of slaw, cabbage soup, sauerkraut, cabbage rolls... and plenty shared with family and friends. Now we wait until next year.
(Seeds ordered from Baker's Creek_ rareseeds.com)
'Late Flat Dutch' cabbage
 The zucchini 'Black Beauty' has taken over nearly the entire raised bed. 

The Walla Walla onions are about as nice as we recall,
'Walla Walla' sweet onion
and on occasion the compost gives us a gift. This year it happens to be our favorite winter squash, Japanese 'Red Kuri'.
from the compost springs reward
'Red Kuri' winter squash
Who knows what hiccups next years garden will bring, 
but we are thankful it has been good to us this year.

I am linking to Pam's Garden for Garden Tuesday. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

California Drought, Our Food, Delta Smelt, Organic Farmers...

We were talking to friends the other day and during the conversation they indicated they could not believe the price of vegetables in the grocery store. I don't like to bear bad news, but I'm afraid we ain't seen nothin' yet. (The highlighted areas below give further clarity as to the problems we face.)

And after you read this, you might ask yourself_ from where will our food come and at what cost?

July 2013, Slate.com wrote: If we didn't have California, what would we eat? California supplies America with 99 % of artichokes, 99 % of walnuts, 97 % of kiwis, 97 % of plums, 95 % of celery, 95 % of garlic, 89 % of cauliflower, 71 % of spinach, and 69 % of carrots (and the list goes on and on).

Likely you are aware of the drought conditions facing California. This past Friday the Federal Government announced that the Central Valley Project -- California's largest water delivery system -- will provide NO WATER this year to Central Valley farmers and only 50 percent of the contracted amount to urban areas such as Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties... (my emphasis on the 'no water'). Did you know that California is 15% of the entire US economy?

Since at least 1991, we have read about a battle brewing over a tiny 2 to 2.8 inch (5-7 cm) Delta Smelt that resides exclusively in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Endangered Species Act and shipments of Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water to urban and agricultural users. (From everything I have read, the value of the Delta smelt? Nothing.)  

In 2009, this article in the Wall Street Journal spoke to California's Man-Made Drought and the impact the smelt and federal regulations have had on farmers and America's premier agricultural regions.

In February 2013, the water supply for 25 million people and millions of acres of farmland in the Central Valley, Southern California and San Francisco Bay Area was curtailed again to protect the Delta Smelt.

Farms_hundred of thousands of acres_ have turned into dust bowls; livelihoods are at risk; fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains will not be planted; ranchers are giving up their livestock; prices will escalate on what is available...

People's lives, food, jobs.... or a smelt? You be the judge.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Organic Farmers and the rest of the county:

HUSTONTOWN, Pa — Jim Crawford was rushing to load crates of freshly picked organic tomatoes onto trucks heading for an urban farmers market when he noticed the federal agent.

A tense conversation followed as the visitor to his farm — an inspector from the Food and Drug Administration — warned him that some organic-growing techniques he had honed over four decades could soon be outlawed...

FDA's proposed rules would curtail many techniques that are common among organic growers, including spreading house-made fertilizers, tilling cropland with grazing animals, and irrigating from open creeks.

Note: At a recent congressional hearing, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) seized on one draft set of rules in which the FDA declared kale is "never consumed raw."  You can read this article here.
 _ _ _ _ _

Akron, OH -- Bessemer Farms, the only working farm within the city of Akron, has stopped growing vegetables for local tables... pending federal food safety regulations that likely will require farmers to very specifically track their produce and how it is handled from seed to sale, among other things..

“We’ve been farming for 117 years. I’m the third generation and we’re being put out of business by the government. We can’t comply with all of the safety laws. We haven’t poisoned anybody with an ear of corn for 117 years and we’ve shipped it all over,” Bessemer said. The story is here.

_ _ _ _ _

New FDA Rules Will Put Organic Farmers  Out of Business

Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group released a 16-page analysis accusing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in a way that will crush “the country’s safest farmers” ...

Interestingly enough is that the FDA freely acknowledges that the farm cost of implementing their proposed Rule will drive some producers out of business.

Monday, February 10, 2014

At Times Like This...

At times like this it feels as though we aren't far from living in a third world country.

The snow began to fall Thursday morning and right around the freezing point. It brought cities to a standstill_ schools and businesses closed and pileups on major interstate highways kept people stranded for what must have seemed a lifetime.

Snowfall continued into Friday and with increasing volume_ well over a foot of the white stuff. Then we lost power. 

Freezing light drizzle turned into rain; boughs kissed the ground, branches cracked and trees fell from the burden of the icy mass. All life form remained hidden. 

Gleditsia triacanthos "Sunburst"
my favorite Himalayan birch
 Yesterday gave promise as temperatures teasingly rose. The forecast of rain never materialized. Would it really stay above freezing? 

The EPA says we can't use our wood stove, and the county says we cannot use our wood fireplace_ any visible smoke from a chimney will result in a fine and enforcement. 38 ° F and the thaw continues, albeit slowly. 

It is too much to hope that we have power restored today?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas Family and Friends

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to our family and friends!
Although this is a joyous season, we bring you a wonderful bluesy song from our son.
Santa's Wearin' Blue This Year, by George Johnson, featuring The Jordanaires. 
This song can be downloaded from iTunes for only .99 cents.

Last minute Christmas idea? George's current album, Still Pissed At Yoko is only $9.03 to download, and folks love his t-shirt and cap.
By the way, Victoria Jackson from Saturday Night Live, loves George's creative work.
His first album, George Johnson featuring The Jordanaires and The Memphis Horns can be downloaded, or purchase a hard copy from GeorgeJohnson.com.