While the rest of the country is running straight to summer, our little corner of the PNW is having a much colder winter than usual. Cold and wet to be more specific. Even this morning I saw snowflakes as I was waiting for the bus. I want to get out in the garden but it is just not quite the season here yet.
This weekend Matt finished laying the wood floor inlay around the fireplace and built ins…such an accomplishment and it looks A-MAY-ZING! We can now move on to the next area of the house, and will come back for final painting of the mantle and trim when it is warm enough to open windows. And for good measure, a cute photo of me and the baby bump checking on daddy’s progress.
I spent my weekend dreaming of the garden and working on a crop rotation plan. We are starting to hone in on the crops we like to grow that we actually use…which is not always obvious when you start. Spinach for example? We did not reach for it. Bush beans were prolific but we preferred the climbing romano beans so bush beans are out. Matt does not like beets. All the learning that goes into a maturing garden! This year we are focusing more on sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, kale and beans. Those are our staples and I want to optimize our soil and production with lessons from crop rotation.
I am still refining this model in Excel, but here is the basic idea that I am working from. First box is last year’s garden, with the second box one option for this year. For some scale, our garden is 45×60 feet and has been divided roughly into quadrants.
Last summer our neighbors to the south underwent a massive yard overhaul. Unfortunately, it resulted in us loosing a lot of our privacy…grrr.
Since then, Matt and I have considered fencing, shrubs, evergreens and every other kind of hedge/barrier/privacy screen possible.
After calling some nurserys and doing some online digging we found the ideal plant for us: pacific wax myrtle. This native plant is deer resistant, hardy, evergreen, and grows FAST…exactly what we wanted! However, it is hard to find. We called nursery after nursery, looked online, everything was not in stock. Our island nursery said it had been over a year since they could get any in because they are in such low supply.
Then finally, I found a supplier. Local guy, super friendly, and he set aside twenty, 1 gallon pots for us. I loaded them up in the mini (this poor car gets a workout!) and took them back to the island. Since they have been in pots, they needed some trimming this first season to encourage bushing out.
We planted them along the property line and are so excited for them to grow up and bush out over the next few years!
What makes it a remodel vs a renovation? I was thinking of that in the middle of drafting this post.
Well, whatever it is, we are in the middle of it! This weekend we really hit some major strides and milestones. I unpacked all the plastic sheeting in the kitchen…that has been up since we took the wall down in February! We decided that there were enough steps between now and actually demoing the backsplash and counters that we could use our stove and hood for a while. Major horray for not cooking on a hot plate for awhile!
We are also making huge changes in the living room. Matt has the fireplace (new hearth, mantle) framed out and covered in plywood. Brick veneer has been selected and is on order. We ordered sample tile for the kitchen and are narrowing it down. The table saw from the Tool Library has been working hard in the driveway and Matt is getting lots of practice. Next up: cabinets and cubbies for the kitchen! And a new light, and, and and…the list goes on!
Two thirds of our potatoes are harvested, garlic is curing in the laundry room, bush beans are coming in by the handful and the Spanish beans are less than a week away from first harvest. Kale is going bonkers but areas are plagued by powdery mildew (boo!), and zucchini has been rolling in for breakfast, dinner and chocolate chip zucchini bread. Raspberries are a daily treat. And we have so many sweet peas for bouquets everywhere. We are in harvest time and it feels amazing.
While the rest of the country is facing a massive heat wave, the temps this year have been much lower and wetter. It is a welcome break from last summer. The grass is even still green!
And we are working on a name for our little farm. A few names have come up, but we are trying really hard to make it just right.
Happy July…we are already counting down the days till fall vacations arrive! Better get moving on these house projects…or renovations whatever they are called.
Last year our zucchini growing efforts were unsuccessful. I am still not sure how that was possible but it was.
This year is the total opposite. We have plants that are literally almost thigh high, with leaves like platters. HUGE flowers are producing lots of zucchini and we are thrilled. Ask me again in a month if I still feel this way!
Sunday morning I took our largest friend on the kitchen counter and turned him into two beautiful loaves of scrumptious chocolate chip zucchini bread. I have never had a standard recipe so here is what I made this time.
This made two loaves.
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour
- 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup coconut oil (melted if solid)
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup plain whole greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups zucchini, shredded and squeezed in a towel to dry a bit
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Method: in a bowl, mix dry ingredients. In separate bowl, mix wet ingredients and sugar. Stir together gently. Add zucchini and chocolate chips. Do not overmix!
Bake in two loaf pans lined with parchment at 350 for ~40 minutes or until golden brown and tester comes out clean.
Memorial Day snuck up on me this year. What? Three day weekend? I will gladly take one of those!
The weekend looks wet and cool, then next week promises sunshine and warmer night temperatures…perfect for my garden goal of tucking in 50+ tomato plants! This year I saved seeds from our three favorite varieties (Old German, Milano and Sun Sugar) and every single seed I planted has now grown into a beautiful strong plant. We transport them from the deck to the living room every day and they are now ready to plant outside. I plan to tear out the last of the chard and kale plants (all are bolted…perfect for chicken treats and harvesting seed!), put down a thick layer of compost and broadfork it all in.
We also have a massive pile (if you can even call it a pile…more of a mountain) of sticks and branches that need to be chipped. If we can get the chipper started that would be a great thing to tackle this weekend. Some of the larger sticks may get repurposed thanks to this inspiring fence idea.
Matt is finishing up the hardwood floors in the expanded kitchen and then it will be on to finish coating the drywall, adding texture and building cabinets. Time to pick up the tool library table saw!
This three day weekend is going to fly.
When Matt and I got married, I learned that my new last name meant “orchardist” in French. How cool is that?
Even cooler, I have been bit by the orchard bug and am embracing this title as part of my identity. Earlier this spring we placed our first fruit tree order. A few apples, a pear, mulberry and peach. Somewhat unique varieties but our choices were made though quite virgin eyes.
Planting these trees brought me more joy that I could have fathomed they would. I grew up with my dad’s collection of fruit trees, but was never that interested. Now I am hooked. Last week three more trees joined out orchard and I am counting down the days until we (someday) buy the land next door and have more space to plant. I have a list of old, rare heirloom apple trees that I want to plant and eat.
So far on our homestead we have:
- Northern Spy
- Red Sensation Bartlett
The planting area of our garden has doubled in size this year, and thanks to a winter of cover crop, the soil is also improving! We are going gangbusters with our favorite crops: kale, beans and tomatoes. We are growing other things too, but much of our plot is filled with these three.
We grow an awesome runner bean that my parents brought back from Spain. A sort of Romano bean; it grown 10-12 inches long and 1-1.5 inches wide. You eat the whole thing and it has a sweet, tender pod. Perfect quickly steamed with butter or just raw off the vine!
Last year we grew two 8 foot rows of these beans and had enough to eat and freeze, but rationed them over the winter. We saved seeds and this year have 4 20-foot rows! That required a lot of trellis, and this year we pulled out all the stops.
Salvaged rebar from an old fence on the property (score!), bamboo from our clump, and lots and lots of hand tied twine made a beautiful piece of art that will support our (hopefully!) bumper crop this year! Some of the pieces were curved or bent from their prior life, so it just adds to the character. They look like something out of Dr. Seuss! Last year our trellis was made only of bamboo and twine and started to sag towards the end of the season. Also, late summer winds made it fall over with all the weight of beans. Rebar should be a very solid solution!
Two rows are planted, the next two will be put in the ground in a few more weeks to spread out the harvest.