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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sno Valley Tilth Table to Farm Dinner

Every summer there is a series of table to farm dinners to benefit Sno Valley Tilth. They take place at member farms and have volunteer chefs prepare the meals for around 100 people. Last summer was the first we had heard about them but we opted to go to the Taste from the Garden dinners at Pine Creek Nursery instead which were easier on the pocket book and featured wine from our favorite local winery. Unfortunately they didn't do their farm dinners this year so we opted to go to one of the Sno Valley Tilth dinners instead. There were only two to choose from and we decided to go to the one at the Experience Farming Project in Carnation with Chef Garrett Brown preparing the meal.

The evening started at 4:30 with some Desert Wind Chardonnay and an appetizer that included potted goat and pickled lamb tongue. It doesn't sound very appetizing but was actually good and tasted nothing like what I imagined tongue would taste like, very tender. I didn't even realize what we were eating until after it was gone.

Desert Wind Wine Potted Goat and Pickled Lamb Tongue

Before dinner, we broke up into two groups and our group split again into 3 groups where each group paired up with one of the farmers for a tour of their garden plot. We got to visit with 2 of the farmers participating in the Experience Farming Project as well as the farm manager who is also farming the land. We learned about what they were growing, where their food was going and what some of their favorite crops were. Below are the 3 farmers we toured with:

Sean Stratman

ArtifactsSean is the Experience Farming Project's farm manager and owns Dancing Crow Farm. He told us a bit about the farm and how it provides hands on farming experience to those interested in making farming a business. Sean concentrated on five main crops in his plot which included a couple of different varieties of beans and tomatoes. He mostly sells his produce to non-profit organizations around Washington. Most of the farmers seemed to use buckwheat as a cover crop and could see it popping up between various plants on most of the plots. I have some buckwheat seeds that I got from a seed exchange last year that I may plant as a cover crop this Fall in my garden beds. He and most of the other farmers seemed proud to own a walk behind tractor which they use for tilling the tough soil prior to sowing their seeds. Sean collects artifacts that he finds which were left behind by the dairy farm that once occupied the land they are now farming.

Sean Stratman Beans

Auggie Bautista

This was Auggie's first year with the program. He quit his corporate job to become a farmer and has started Jumanji Farm. He is all about the business and marketing aspects and the crops that give you the most bang for your buck. He grows a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and learning what grows well and not so well in the area. He mentioned brassicas like kale and cabbage are difficult to grow due to bugs which is a big problem for everyone in the valley, including me. I've managed to control them somewhat using a mix of neem oil and water. His favorite crop to grow is tomatoes. I asked what his favorite variety is and he responded with an orange French variety called Jaune Flamme. It's not a variety I had heard of before so I looked it up online when I got home to see what I could find out about it. An orange tomato is the only color I didn't grow in the garden this year and have been trying to decide which one to grow next year, this might be the one. It is an indeterminate variety that produces orange, golf ball sized fruit fairly early, has a unique citrusy taste, is resistant to many diseases and looks beautiful. What more could you want from a tomato? Auggie sells his produce at farmer's markets and also has his own CSA. 
Auggie Bautista

Bob Bois

Bob owns Green Fields Farm and is in his second season with the Experience Farming Project. He grows lots of leafy greens on a half acre that he sells at the Carnation Farmer's Market on Tuesdays. He follows organic practices though is not certified. He recently bought some property nearby with land that he will be preparing to farm on next year. Bob Bois

The Food

I didn't realize there were gluten free and vegetarian options when I ordered the tickets for the event. We spotted several seats with gluten free and veg tags so I talked to one of the staff about getting the gluten free option. The food was served family style with the exception of the gluten free and vegetarian options which were served on separate plates much later than the rest of the table was served I might add. There was no menu for those options either so I can't say for sure what they were. Each family plate served 8 people but 1 of us was gluten free and 1 was vegetarian so most of the plates were only shared by 6 people. I was surprised that all of the family style courses had gluten except the salad. Each course was paired with a wine from Desert Wind. The dessert was a blackberry hand pie and Crème Fraiche ice cream while the gluten free option was just the ice cream. I was hoping for some berries to go with it but there was not. The ice cream was good though. The meal was finished with coffee and/or a brandy unlike anything our table had ever had before.

Lamb Salad
1st course:
(right) Heirloom Tomatoes, Pickled Fennel & Kohlrabi, Purslane, Baby Lettuces, Sunflower Seeds, Chevre, Gewürztraminer Vinaigrette

Gnocchi Veggie Saute
2nd course:
(left) Black Pepper Gnocchi, Smoked Corn, Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, Grilled Zucchini, Mustard Greens, Queso Fresco.
(right) Gluten free option: Sauteed vegetables and greens

Lamb 4 Ways Plate of Lamb
3rd Course:
(left) Belly Roulade, chevre, spinach, pine nuts – Tea-smoked Ribs, bourbon-spiked balsamic molasses – Shin, crispy leeks, pistachio hollandaise, za’atar – Leg and Apricot Tagine – Whey-Poached Emmer Wheat and Herbs
(right) Gluten Free Option: Pile of lamb with apricot tagine

Blackberry Handpie Crème Fraiche Ice Cream  
4th Course:
(left) Local Blackberry Hand Pie, Crème Fraiche Ice Cream, Candied Ginger
(right) Gluten Free Option: Crème Fraiche Ice Cream, pistachios, borage blossoms, candied ginger

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Kale and Quinoa Salad Recipe

Ham and Eggs Cup Recipe Had a little get together at the house last weekend and made a kale and quinoa salad that was a hit. I had several people ask for the recipe so thought I would post it here for easy reference. I started out using this recipe on theleancleaneatingmachine.com but made a few additions and omitted a few things as well and came up with my own recipe.

When cooking quinoa I like to use a little less water than what is called for on the packaged instructions so it is more dry and less mushy. I also toss a leaf or two of sage in the pot. You may also want to use vegetable or chicken stock to cook the quinoa for more flavor.

Recipe: Kale & Quinoa Salad

Yield: 6 servings as a side dish
Estimated Time: 30 minutes

4 cups finely chopped curly kale, ribs removed
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds
6 or more cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

1/4 cup avocado or olive oil
1 large lemon, zest and juice
1 Tbsp raw honey
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp minced red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp sea salt

  1. Add all dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until combined and set aside.
  2. Stir together the chopped kale, quinoa, feta and pumpkin seeds in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Add the dressing to the kale and quinoa mixture and stir until evenly distributed.
  4. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  5. Top the salad with cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size and preference
Chopped Kale Salad Ingredients
Tropeana Lunga Onions
Tropeana Lunga onions from the garden

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Seattle Chicken Coop and Urban Farm Tour

Seattle Tilth put on an urban farm tour that consisted of 25 different farms to visit in 6 hours. I don't think there's any way to have done them all in that amount of time. We studied the various farms and decided to stick to the 15 located in North Seattle and we made it to 11 of them. It was impressive what some of these urban farms had going on in such small spaces. All of them had chickens and gardens and some had beeds, ducks, rabbits and even goats. Below are the farms we visited in the order we visited them.

15 Roosevenna Rancheria
Roosevenna Racheria
They have a few friendly chickens with a nice chicken coop setup. In back of the chickens was their raised bed gardens. Several of the beds had bottles sticking out of the sides which they claim helps to keep the soil warm.

14 Yummy Yard Farm
Yummy Yard Farm
This was the only warre beehive we saw during the tour. I don't know too much about this type but would like to learn more.  They also had a garden and a chicken coop that matched the house.
13 Jane's Place
Jane's Place
This place has three chickens (and 3 baby chicks in a box) and two rabbits though we never saw the rabbits. There were some impressive tunnels all around the backyard for the chickens and rabbits to run through. If you don't want to deal with making raised beds out of wood, one idea is to do what they did and use livestock water/feed troughs.
1 Little Farm
Little Farm
This farm is called "Little Farm" but it's not so little compared the others. In fact it was the largest at 1/2 acre, the same size as my property. You can tell she put a lot of hard work into this place. There's a little bit of everything including chickens, ducks, goats, rabbits, bees and a large garden with fruit trees and a great barn. I thought my 1/2 acre was a lot of work but this place looked like more of a handful but a rewarding one. It was voted our favorite urban farm on the tour.
2 eTilth Urban Cut Flower Farm
eTilth Urban Cut Flower Farm
This urban flower farm grows flowers for local florists and events. Why bother with writing labels on little tags when you can just write them on the siding of your house? I thought that was cute. They also have several friendly chickens, some of which were roaming freely in the yard. I recognized one as a sicilian buttercup by the unique crown shaped comb on her head. I found it amusing that she was growing several varieties of rare veggies that I'm growing in my yard too. I found some tronchuda kale and ozette potatoes which aren't varieties you see every day.
3 Sunnyside Farm
Sunnyside Farm
This was probably the smallest urban farm we visited but they seemed to make the most of it.
When we arrived a woman was enjoying braiding some softneck garlic. I was surprised to see 3 langstroth hives in this small yard. The yard was full of bees and a path near the hives was closed off for bee traffic. They also had chickens, a good sized garden and a greenhouse with citrus trees in this small backyard. We spotted a strange contraption with a window on top that was a solar bees wax melter. 
7 Waswasno Farm
Waswasno Farm
This farm houses two homemade Gypsy Wagons that are rented out as a bed and breakfast. We weren't allowed to check out the one on the right because there were people renting it. They also have some cute rabbits with big fluffy ears. They also had chickens that roamed along the hill on the back side of the property and supposedly one of the largest chicken runs in the city.
8 Cason Point Urban Farm
Cason Point Urban Farm
This farm had multiple owners. The garden landscaping is kept up by multiple tenants in the apartment building. I'm not sure if it's a requirement to be a gardener to live here but it seemed like most of them were. Each tenant has his own area. There were lots of containers and raised beds everywhere. They even had an area where they were growing mushrooms on pallets. They even had some vegetables growing below the property along the sidewalk. The chickens had a nice big area to roam around and tunnels to hide in. They also had a beehive but it didn't sound like they had much experience in beekeeping and could use a few classes.
11 Saltbox Designs
Saltbox Designs
This was basically a home workshop that makes chicken coops. It was an impressive workshop but I wouldn't call this an urban farm. He did have one of the chicken coops set out with a couple of chickens in it but it was pretty obvious that they weren't full time residents. There was a little parking strip garden out front and an oversized trellis with what looked like grapes growing up it..
10 Renter's Own Hive
Renter's Own Hive
When we arrived, it felt like we were crashing a party we weren't invited to. There were some empty bottles of wine on a table and a group of people talking and drinking. They had a small shady backyard and the bees were surprisingly up on top of a roof which seems a hard place to do an inspection. It was only one box high and probably put on the roof to get a little more sun. They also had a couple of chickens in a small run and a garden.
9 Shelley and John Rousseau
Shelley & John Rousseau
We barely made it to this last house. It was a small yard on a corner lot. They had a lot of neat garden art around the front part of the property mixed in with their veggies and fruit trees. They had decided to get rid of their grass and turn the whole yard into an edible landscape with the chicken run and coop in the back. We just missed the chickens free ranging but saw them taking it easy in the coop. They have two separated flocks of chickens because they just don't get along so they have two coops next to eachother and lets them out to free range the backyard separately.

Monday, June 01, 2015

2015 Bean Varieties

I've never grown beans from seed before but harvested what was already planted by previous owners last summer. I don't even know what variety they were but they were obviously a pole bean and had nothing to climb on which made it a challenge to harvest. I didn't save any of the seeds because I didn't want to plant something unless I knew the variety.

Did you know there are literally thousands of varieties of beans? This makes it quite difficult narrowing down what to grow. I got half of the seeds from seed exchanges and the remainder by sifting through seed catalogs and choosing pretty looking dual or triple purpose beans. I surprisingly don't have any black beans planted but I've already started collecting seeds for next year and there will be at least one black one. Below is what I have growing this year:

Pellegrini (Monachine) - A rare Italian bean sold by The Herbfarm Restaurant as Pellegrini beans or E & M Seeds as Monachine. The small bean is mostly dark brown with varying amounts of white splotches. (pole, snap, shell or dry, 60-70 days to maturity)

Royalty Purple Pod - Obtained through a seed exchange. The flowers are purple and produce 5" stringless purple pods that turn green when cooked. (bush, snap, 55 days to maturity)
Dragon Tongue - Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Bush produces 7" long yellow stringless pods with purple streaks which disappear when cooked. (bush, wax, snap, shell or dry, 60-100 days to maturity)

 Speckled Cranberry - Organic seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. Vines produce 7-9" stringless pods until the first frost. The speckled cranberry bean and stringless pods are wide and tan with brown streaks which disappear when cooked. (pole, snap, shell or dry, 60-90 days to maturity)
Kentucky Wonder - Obtained through a seed exchange. This popular variety produces 8" long stringless beans for 3-4 weeks. It can also be found as a pole variety. (bush, snap, 65 days to maturity). Updated: Poor germination on these so reseeded with black coco beans.

Scarlet Runner - Obtained through a seed exchange. Produces beautiful edible scarlet flowers and huge lima bean like seeds that are violet purple mottled in black. If they taste like lima beans I may not grow them again! The young leaves are also edible. (pole, snap, shell or dry, 70-115 days to maturity)
Black Coco - Obtained through a seed exchange. Plants grow 22-24 inches tall. The shelled beans cook quickly and are good in soups or refritos. (bush, snap, shell, dry 60-86 days to maturity)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Beekeeping 101

So you want to set up a honeybee hive in your backyard? Be sure to do your research before you delve in. It's not a set up and forget about it hobby. Beehives require regular inspections and are an investment. You should consider getting at least two hives initially. Having two hives helps you determine if there is a problem with a hive (ie. one hive growing much faster than the other). You can also swap frames between the hives to help fix many problems. You will find there is no one right answer. There are many ways to do things and beekeepers have varying opinions about how they think it should be done. I plan on experimenting to see what works best for me. I would recommend taking a class or two or read a few beekeeping books before diving in. It's also very helpful to join a bee club and get a mentor.

Hive Types 

The two main types of hives are top bar and Langstroth. Top bar hives are single story and have no frames or foundation. Bars are laid across the top of a box and the bees build their comb on the bars. Langstroth hives are rectangular boxes filled with frames which can be designed with or without foundation. When one box is filled you add another on top. We are doing the Langstroth type and will only be discussing that type going forward.

Hive Equipment

Langstroth Hive Screen Bottom Board
There is a lot of equipment you'll need before getting bees and a lot of options to choose from. Some equipment is necessary and there is a lot more that is not necessary but may make things easier. I spent around $800 for all the equipment and tools necessary for a two hive set up locally. I could have saved some money on some things by shopping for the best prices but had time constraints.  For online orders the two biggest companies are Mann Lake Ltd and Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.
  • Bee boxes: There are 3 different sizes to choose from. Shallow, Medium (Western) and Deep. Shallows are mainly used for honey supers while Mediums and Deep are used for the brood (eggs, larvae, pollen, some honey).  You can also get these in 8-frame or 10-frame sizes. When using Mediums you'll need 3 boxes for brood and if using deeps you'll need 2 boxes but should always have extras on hand if needed. I chose to go with three 8-frame mediums for my hives because they are lighter and easier to handle. You can buy them assembled or unassembled or you can even make your own. We chose to get everything unassembled which saved a little money. I ordered the boxes through a bee club group buy for $7.75/box, normally around $20/box.
  • Frames: There are also different options for frames. You can get either plastic or wood. The plastic comes with foundation for around $3/frame. Wood frames can be assembled or unassembled, grooved (for plastic foundation) or wedged (for wax foundation). Either type can be used for foundationless. Unassembled wooden frames are around $2 each and assembled around $2.40.
  • Foundation: You can use empty frames and not use foundation but may need to run wires across the frame for support. You'll use foundationless frames if you are looking to harvest comb honey and not use an extractor. The bees will hopefully build their comb in a straight line in the foundationless frame and it's crucial that your hive be level if using foundationless. It will need to be checked periodically to make sure they are building it correctly. If using foundation you can choose between wax and plastic. Both types are around $1.50. Plastic comes in both black and white. We went with the black plastic which makes seeing the eggs and larvae much easier.
  • Top covers: You can choose between telescoping and migratory. Telescoping covers go over the sides of the hive and have a metal top to helps protect against rain and condensation and is what I would recommend for wet and/or humid climates. Telescoping covers are cheaper and don't require an inner cover and are used in dryer climates, like in the Southern states. Telescoping covers are around $23 online but I paid much more locally. Migratory covers are about $13.
  • Inner covers: Inner covers are only used if you go with a telescoping cover. The inner cover goes between the top cover and the top bee box. The inner cover has a hole in the middle which allows bees to go in and out through the top of the hive. Inner covers are around $12 online and is another item I spent more on locally.
  • Bottom Boards: The bottom board of the hive can be built with or without a screen bottom. The screen bottom is used for varroa mite trapping. It doesn't really reduce the mite population but allows them to fall through a screen and onto a board that you can slide out to count the mites to see how big of a mite problem you may have. The screen bottom boards are about $20-30 and no screen is $19. I again paid more locally.
  • Hive Stand: The hive should not be placed directly on the ground. For the cheapest route, just get a couple of cinder blocks and set it on those. They are only a couple dollars. We also built a frame out of scrap 2x4s to set on top of the cinder blocks to elevate it a little more.


Beekeeping Tools 
There are tools and accessories that you should get to help protect yourself and make inspections go smoothly. These are the accessories that I started out with but there are many more you can get. This is what I feel are mandatory.
  • Gloves: Be sure to get tight fitting gloves. I would get these locally so you can try them on and make sure you have a good fit. Some brands may fit better than others. They are usually made with either cow hide or goat skin and you can expect to pay between $18-30.
  • Jacket: You can get a full suit but I decided to just get a jacket with an attached hood. This is going to be your biggest expense. The jacket I got was only $80 which appear cheaper than those I found online. You could try just wearing a regular jacket and only get a veil if you want to save money. 
  • Smoker: I've not needed to use the smoker yet but the bee population is growing and will most likely use it on the next inspection. This is needed to calm the bees down during inspections and helps reduce the number of bees you squish while doing inspections. They are around $35 online but I paid much more locally.
  • Hive Tool: There are a few different ones out there. I would recommend getting the one with a hook on the end which can be used to lift frames easier. I got one on Amazon for $9 after getting the no hook tool locally. So now I have two.
  • Bee Brush: I haven't needed to use it yet but it may be helpful to brush bees off the frames. They are only $6.
  • Sugar syrup feeder: There are many types but I went with a top feeder that holds 4 overturned jars with holes in the top. The are also feeders that you can put at the entrance or a frame feeder. Frame feeders take up two frame spaces. I wouldn't recommend those if you are only doing an 8 frame hive. The jar feeder was $11 locally.
Inner Cover Feeder


Bee Package 
Usually when first starting you will pre-order a bee package locally in late Fall and it will arrive sometime in April. You can also by a nuc (nucleus) which is mini bee box with 5 frames with comb already built. These are more expensive because you get a little bit of a head start. Nuc's unfortunately only come in the deep size and not medium unless it were custom built.

The two most popular types of bees are Italian and Carniolan. We chose to go with Italians. Bee packages are around $120 for a 3 lb package which will contain around 10k bees. Some places also offer 5 lb packages. Nuc's run around $150 and also contain around 10k bees. You can pay a few dollars extra to get the queen marked so you can find her more easily and determine if she has been replaced or not.
  • Italians: Light gold colored, making it easier to find the queen. Produce more honey than Carniolans and are less susceptible to European Foulbrood. They may try to keep more brood than they are able to feed and may drift between hives.They are gentle and only make queen cells for swarming or queen replacement.
  • Carniolans: They are darker in color and will forage farther distances and fly in cooler temps than Italians. They are more likely to swarm than Italians due to explosive Spring build up. 
  • Russians: Dark colored and twice as resistant to varroa mites and highly resistant to tracheal mites. They are a gentle breed and have queen cells present in the hive most of the time. They only rear brood during times of pollen and nectar flows. They over-winter better than Italian and Cariolans.

Total Cost 

Here's a recap of my initial cost, pre-tax for two hives plus starter equipment. Remember that you can save some money by comparing prices online vs locally and through group buys if you can find some. I could have saved around $60 if I had bought some of the items online.

All bought locally and through club group buys
6 boxes: $46.50 (group buy price)
48 Frames w/ foundation: $124.80
2 Top Covers: $70 (cheaper if bought online)
2 Inner Covers: $33.90 (cheaper if bought online)
2 Screen Bottom Boards: $61
1 Gloves: $30
1 Jacket with Veil: $80
1 Smoker: $60 (cheaper if bought online)
1 Hive Tool: $9
1 Bee Brush: $6
2 Feeders: $22
2 Bee Packages: $226
Total: $780.20

Bought recently for honey supers:
2 boxes: $33.90
16 frames: $20
8 plastic foundations: $10.80
1 wax foundation for foundationless starter strips: $1.50
Total: $66.20

Grand Total: $846.40

I'll be posting more about our beekeeping adventures soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

This Year's Lettuce Varieties

In addition to planting a bunch of tomato and kale varieties, I've also planted quite a few lettuces (7 of them) and they are just about ready to harvest. There are a few more varieties I will be starting soon to replace these after harvesting. I had originally planned to put the lettuce in the same bed as the kale but saw a video where someone suggested planting lettuce between rows of onions to control weeds and thought it was a brilliant idea! It is what allowed me to plant more kale.

Since they are getting close to harvest I am able to post a photo to go along with each one. I started them all indoors in February and transplanted them into the garden in March. I had a little trouble with germination on the Paris Island Cos and only ended up with 3 plants. They all made it through a couple of frosts with no problem.

Batavian Full Heart Escarole - from a seed exchange but the seed originally came from Hudson Valley Seed Library. I started this one a little later than the others. It's a bitter green in the chicory family and is packed full of vitamins and minerals.
Buttercrunch - from Seattle Seed Co. end of year sale. It is one of the most popular garden lettuces and has a soft buttery texture.
White Stemmed Pac Choy - from High Mowing. Pac Choy is also known as Bok Choy. It may not be a lettuce but I planted it in the same bed as the lettuces so decided to include it. It's a Chinese cabbage that is most often used in stir fry.
Paris Island Cos - from Seattle Seed Co. end of year sale. This is one I had never heard of and only got it because it was on sale. It looks a lot like romaine and after looking it up it is even described as a romaine type lettuce. The germination percentage was not as good as the romaine.
Romaine - from Seattle Seed Co. end of year sale. Everyone knows romaine lettuce. It's found in every grocery store and used in caesar salads. I may not have bought it or at least not planted it at the same time as Paris Island since they are so similar if I had known Paris Island was a romaine also.
Red Romaine - from a seed exchange but the seed originally came from Baker Creek. Mine has a much deeper red coloring than the photo on Baker Creek. They say cooler weather will give you a deeper red color.
Rossa di Verona Endive - from Mike the Gardener, a seed of the month club. It's an Italian chicory, also known as radicchio. I actually had no idea it was a radicchio until I looked it up. I'm not much of a fan of raw radicchio but it is great grilled.