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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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Peach Delivery

They just started offering Peach lunch delivery at my office in Redmond. I had never heard of it before the announcement that it was coming the week before. After looking the company up, I discovered it launched in the summer of 2014, started by a few ex-Amazon engineers. They aren't the first restaurant delivery service to pop up in the Seattle area though. Other delivery services include Caviar, Eat24, Bitesquad, Postmates, GrubHub, Seamless and Munchery. Even Amazon has a restaurant delivery service now. Peach currently delivers to over 150 offices in the Greater Seattle area. You'll need to go to their website to see their delivery locations.

Where does the food come from?

The food is prepared by a variety of different local area restaurants. The first week of deliveries at my office featured 5 different restaurants from Mexican, American, Asian and Greek. The three options are categorized Meat, Veg and Lite. From the website you can view a photo of each dish, the type of cuisine and a list of common allergens.

How much is it?

The first week it was offered at my office, all lunches were only $5 which is about half the normal price. I took advantage of the discount by getting 3 lunches the first week. After the introductory week the lunches go to the normal price which averages around $10. They do have a referral program that gives you and the referral a $5 lunch once they place their first order.

How does it work?

Peach will send out an email on Sunday showing you what 3 options you have for lunch each day that week with an option to pre-order. If you don't order anything you will get three text messages with photos each morning showing you what the options are and the ability to text back to order. If you pre-ordered or uncheck the texting option, you won't get the text messages. When the lunch is ready (between 12:00-12:30) for pickup you will get a text message indicating where to pick it up. ie. Front Desk of Building 1. The lunches will have a sticker on the packaging indicating Lite, Veg, or Meat. Check the sticker to be sure you got the right one.
Local Burger Sticker Peach Delivery

 What did I think?

I had an oops moment with my first order. I received the email on Sunday before I put my credit card info in the system so when I went to make an order it went to another page to do that and when finished it took me back to the order page but not the same page so I ended up ordering the wrong thing and had to cancel it. To cancel you simply send an email requesting a cancel and they refund your payment and they did it fairly quickly and sent a confirmation.

I heard from another source that they are disorganized and I would have to agree a bit with that. The first day, the delivery person handed out the lunches without checking off any names. I asked for the "grilled chicken" (the Lite option) and was handed the Meat option, which was pork by the way, because well chicken is a meat right? So I had to go back and exchange my lunch for the correct one. Next time I will be sure to specify Meat, Veg or Lite rather than what is in the box because the delivery person apparently doesn't know. For the second pick-up, our security guard ended up being the one handing out the lunches and he at least took down names while doing so. By the third time they seemed to get it right and had a list of names and you had to sign by your name when you pick it up from the building security guard.

It is nice that they include a list of allergens with the menu but only if they are consistent with it. My salad from Local Burger listed no allergens so I figured there weren't any. There appeared to be a lot of toasted peanuts on the salad which last I checked is one of the most common allergens. Luckily I do not have a peanut allergy.

In the text message for pickup it also asks you to provide a rating and feedback. I used this for my first lunch from Pho Ever and gave a 2 out of 5 rating because the chicken was very dry and they texted back apologizing for the dry chicken and said they would let the restaurant know which is nice. I also rated the last lunch, a tuna poke salad from Sen Japanese Gourmet, giving it a 4 out of 5. Definitely the best of the three lunches I tried and only one I thought was worth more than $5.

How can the service be improved?

  • List allergens consistently
  • Have a gluten free option
  • Be sure restaurant includes plasticware (1st lunch did, 2nd lunch did not, 3rd lunch did)

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Gregarious Wine Maker's Dinner

Our favorite local winery put on a wine maker's dinner at their home/winery atop High Rock in Monroe. There's not a wine of theirs that I haven't liked. We joined four other couples for a four course meal paired with a variety of Gregarious Cellars wines. We all picked out name tags which had various titles from Wino to Master Gardener. I chose "Farm Girl" for my name tag. We nibbled on cheese, crackers, nuts and a glass of sparkling wine while enjoying the view of the valley and chatted with the other guests before heading downstairs for dinner. Between courses we also tried a few other wines including a barrel tasting of the new Merlot. Merlot is my least favorite but oddly I've really enjoyed Gragarious' Merlots and even though this one has a few more months in the barrel before it's ready to bottle, it tasted like it would be another winner.

Spicy Shrimp and PolentaThe first course was a spicy shrimp and polenta paired with a rosé. This was a great start. Polenta isn't something I've had much of before and have never tried making it myself. I need to add that to my to do list.

3 Bean and Sausage SoupThe second course was an Italian 3 bean and sausage soup paired with Barrel 46, a blend of cabernet franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. I could have eaten another bowl of soup if we didn't still have two more courses to go. It was cooked to perfection and paired nicely with the blend which was probably my favorite wine of the night.

Truffle Pasta with Shitake Mushroom Sauce and pork MedalionsThe third course was truffle pasta with a shiitake mushroom sauce and pork medallions paired with my second favorite wine, the Syrah.  Syrah's have always been my favorite which is probably why I liked the blend so much. I believe syrah makes up the majority of their blend. I'm not usually a very big mushroom fan but was surprised to really enjoy the shiitake mushrooms in the dish. I didn't even pick them out like I usually did and could have eaten more. The pasta was my favorite, loaded with garlic and that tasty sauce.

Chocolate Lava Cake with Raspberries and GelatoThe 4th and final course was a divine molten lava cake with vanilla gelato and ripe raspberries, paired with Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a great ending to the meal. I don't often eat desserts so it was a real treat and the cake wasn't overly sweet like they somethings are.
It was a fun dinner and a great meal. Greg and Diana are wonderful hosts and we enjoyed meeting their cute and tiny little dog too. We hope to attend their upcoming blending party this summer which is yet to be scheduled.

More Wine Merlot from the Barrel

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This Year's Kale Varieties

Baby Kales 
This is my first year planting kale however did have one variety (red russian) in the garden when I moved into the house last summer and it seemed to grow well. The previous owners of the house did not thin out the rows so they were pretty tightly packed. I'll be giving them much more room to grow. Kale is one of the chickens favorite treats and I eat a lot of it too so it will be nice when the kale is big enough to harvest so that will be one less thing for me to purchase at the grocery.

I love having different varieties and who knew there were so many varieties of kale to choose from and so many names for the same variety. There are only a few that I've seen at the grocery store (dinosaur, red russian and curly). Baker Creek, where I got most of my seeds from this year, has 9 different varieties to choose from while Territorial Seed had 16! I narrowed my selections for this year down to 6. One of the seed packets I received was a "Wild Garden Mix" which I originally thought was a single variety but as the starts grew I realized it was actually a mix of three varieties. The varieties are not listed on the seed packet but I think I've figured out what they are (blue curled, dinosaur and red russian).
  1. Premier (Early Hanover) - This is a newer variety I received from Mike the Gardener's seeds of the month club. It has large, smooth, dark green leaves up to a foot long and grows 12-15" tall and 12" wide. This variety is cold hardy. 55-65 days to maturity. 
  2. Vates Blue Curled -  I got these seeds on sale at the end of last season from Seattle Seed Co. The blue-green leaves are curly and more rigid than other varieties and grows to 15" tall and up to 24" wide. Best used as a garnish or in soups and stir fries. 50-60 days to maturity.
  3. Tronchuda (Portuguese & Sea Kale) - This variety came from Baker Creek which I found on sale at a local nursery for 50% off. This variety is more heat tolerant than other varieties and can also take a freeze. The leaves are very large (up to 24"), flat and round, similar to collards but with white veins. This variety tastes more like cabbage and was previously called Tronchuda Cabbage, a non-heading cabbage variety. Grows 12-24" tall and 24-36" wide. 50-60 days to maturity.
  4. Scarlet - I received this variety through a local seed exchange but Baker Creek was the original source for the seeds. This is probably the most beautiful of the kales. The tightly curled leaves are dark green/purple. It grows 24-36" tall and 24" wide. 60 days to maturity.
  5. Red Russian (Siberian & Ragged Jack) - This one came from the Wild Garden Mix from Seattle Seed Co. This variety is cold and heat hardy with tender oak looking blue-green leaves with purple veins. It grows 2-3' tall and 12" wide. 50-60 days to maturity.
  6. Dinosaur (Lacinato & Tuscan) - This is one of the most common varieties and is the other variety I chose to plant from the Wild Garden Mix from Seattle Seed Co. The rigid dark blue-green blistered/bumpy leaves are long and narrow and curl in at the sides. It is cold and heat hardy and grows to 2' tall and 2' wide. 60 days to maturity.
I started the Premier, Vates Blue Curled and Wild Garden varieties in early March and transplanted them in the garden a little over one month later. The Tronchuda and Scarlet was started in early March and will be ready for the garden in another couple of weeks. I've decided to put 4 of each variety in the garden so should have a steady supply of kale soon for salads, soups, stir fries, smoothies and chicken treats.

Friday, March 20, 2015

This Year's Tomato Varieties

Going from a teenie garden to a big one has made me go a little overboard on planting stuff. Even after adding two additional beds to the six I already had, it seems I don't have enough room for all I want to plant. I used to plant typically 2 tomato plants in a container but this year is a little different. I'll be planting 14 different tomato varieties in my garden this year that I've already started from seed. I got my seeds from saved seeds, seed exchanges and seed catalogs. I started all of them between 3/6-9 and had a pretty decent germination. I did have one pkg of seeds from 2006 that took longer to germinate than the others but it eventually came up and they are all sitting under lights and will get transplanted into bigger pots in a few weeks. I plan on only planting one of each variety in the garden but started 3 of each just in case. If I have any left over I hope to sell or trade them.  I'll be planting 4 of the determinates in the greenhouse, 2 in a container and the indeterminates in garden beds.
  1. Black Cherry - Seed Savers Exchange 2015 - 65-75 days - Indeterminate
  2. Bradley - Seeds of the Month Club - 75 days - Determinate
  3. Casady's Folly - Duvall Seed Exchange - 75 days - Determinate
  4. Costoluto Genovese - Baker Creek 2015 - 80 days - Indeterminate
  5. Dester - Seed Savers Exchange 2015 - 70-80 - Indeterminate
  6. Green Zebra - Halfdimehomestead Seed Exchange - 80 days - Determinate
  7. Latah - Saved seed - 55-60 days - Determinate
  8. Purple Bumblebee - Baker Creek 2015 - 60-70 days - Indeterminate
  9. Red Pear - Seattle Seed Co 2014 - 70 days - Indeterminate
  10. Roma - Sarah Seed Exchange 2015 - 75 days - Determinate
  11. Washington Cherry - Sarah Seed Exchange - 60 days - Determinate
  12. White Cherry - Seed Savers Exchange 2015 - 70 days - Indeterminate
  13. Yellow Gooseberry - Baker Creek 2015 - 75 days - Indeterminate
  14. Yellow Pear - Ed Hume 2006 - 75 days - Indeterminate

    Added one more variety from a tomato start received from a neighbor who insisted I try it.
  15. Gold Nugget - Neighbor - 60 days - Determinate

Here's a few minute video on how I grew these from seed for the first month:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Meet my Chickens

I currently have 9 hens in my flock of chickens and each one of them has their own personality so I wanted to introduce them and provide a little bit of info about each one. I have four different breeds. The buff orpington and production reds came with the house I bought last summer and were already laying eggs when I moved in. I raised the black copper marans and easter eggers from 1 day old chicks from Baxter Barn.
  • Buff Orpingtons: Orpingtons have a gentle personality and extremely fluffy butts and are commonly broody which makes them a good mother. They lay a light brown egg.
  • Production Reds: A hybrid of Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red and sometimes Leghorn. They are not as gentle of a breed and are known for their high egg production. They lay darker shades of brown eggs.
  • Black Copper Marans: They are a large feather legged bird that lays a dark chocolate brown colored egg.
  • Easter Eggers: Some also call them Americanas, in various spellings. They are a smaller bird with puffy cheeks and a beard and come in a wide variety of colors and lay a blue, green or pink colored egg.


Queen Bailey is a fluffy buff orpington and is the boss lady but the nicest boss you'll ever meet. She doesn't pick on and chase others just for fun like Lucy. She will win any staring contest though and will give a little head bop to get her favorite treats to herself. She likes to sleep up high and look down on everyone provided she can jump high enough. (My buff orpington's aren't the highest of jumpers.) Her favorite hobby is kicking wood chips into the grass and not putting them back where she found them.


Buffy is my other Buff Orpington. When I had 3, it was always difficult to tell them all apart. The only way I can tell the 2 I have now apart is by their combs. Buffy's comb has a twist at the back of it and the points are a little further apart. Orps are a large bird and have the fluffiest of butts. It's hilarious to watch her run and shake that booty. Don't let her size fool you. She's the sweetest girl and doesn't pick on anyone. Her favorite activity is searching for worms. She sleeps on the floor of the coop instead of up high in the nesting boxes or roost. She took a break from egg laying over the winter and is just starting to lay again.


Cinnamon is a production red that came with the purchase of my house. My mom named her Cinnamon because she was the darkest of the 3 reds. She appears to have been moved down to the bottom of the adult's pecking order after a hard molt this winter. She frequently eats from the younger girls' food dish to avoid conflict with the other girls. She is the most skittish of them all but is improving a little now that her molt is over and she has started laying again. She lays the smallest and darkest eggs and has been laying nearly every day since her molt. Her new feathers have some black lacing that does not appear on any of the others and her comb is the shortest so it's easy to tell her apart from the others. Her favorite activity is searching for worms in the compost bin.


This is naked neck Lucy the bully, a production red. She is the meanest of them all though surprisingly not at the top of the pecking order but she wishes she was. She was the only one to pick on the new girls when they joined the flock and continues to chase and peck them every chance she gets. They go running the other way anytime she is near but now that the girls are laying they will sometimes do the squat and Lucy takes full advantage of them and will sit right on top of them. She has the biggest comb and the biggest voice. She gets very upset anytime someone is in her nesting box and doesn't like to share. Her neck is missing feathers but I have not figured out if it's her plucking them out or someone else. I hope one day she will welcome the new girls and not be such a meanie. If she doesn't change her ways I may need to put her in chicken jail for a couple of days.


Sarah is another production red, named by my mom during her visit last summer. I'm not sure where she came up with the name but it seemed fitting. I call her "Silly Sarah" because she is a funny girl. She is the friendliest of my reds and rarely picks on the younger girls. She likes to be by my side and helps me when I'm working in the garden. She loves to pick at your shoes and your pants when you are standing still. She is a great layer and gave me eggs all through winter though she likes to take her time in the nesting box and sings after she lays her eggs. She lets me hold her and doesn't make a fuss like the other reds.


Miss Molly Marans is a very mossy coppery black copper marans and looks nothing like her nearly all black sister. Some say she may even be an Olive egger (marans x blue egg layer) but she does in fact lay a dark brown egg. She is my little poser and beauty queen, the easiest of all my girls to photograph. She's the adventurer/ranger of my youngsters, always being the first one to scope out new places to make sure it's safe. Her favorite spot is sitting in the doorway of the coop to keep a lookout for trouble. When rats were getting into their house, she would sleep in front of the food dish instead of roosting with the others so the rats would have to go through her first. She is so brave.


This is Miss Mary Marans. She's a black copper marans but has no copper to speak of. She had a little twist in her comb when she was younger but as she aged it straightened out. She used to have a few white wing feathers but they've grown out and she's all black except for a little white dot on the back of her head. Her feathers are the softest chicken feathers I've ever felt and they shimmer a green hue in the sunlight. She was the first of my little ones to get her wattles. When she was younger her favorite resting spot was on my shoulder and loved to peck at my ears. Now she loves to eat my hair if it's in reach. She's usually the last one to the food dish but first to the hand fed treats.


Little Ali Bug is a less common colored Easter Egger breed. She seems to get picked on the most by Lucy, the bully. She's a master escape artist and can run the fastest and jump and fly the highest. She likes to jump on the other girls when they least expect it. She loves attention and picking things up and running around with it just to get others to chase her. She's the smallest of the 4 younger girls. She started laying her pretty blue eggs just a couple of days after Mary and Molly.


This is Ari, an Easter Egger, and is the baby of the bunch. She seemed to be the last to stop chirping and the last to lay an egg. She likes to cuddle up under a wing, not her own, when she sleeps.  She was always the most difficult to pick up because she would just flap her wings so hard and it was hard to keep hold of her. She loves to fly and roost on the highest of places.  She likes to eat grass and sometimes gets too preoccupied and next thing she knows her family is across the yard. She squawks, runs and flaps her wings until she catches up with them. She likes to jump on Mark and his camo jacket when ever he is around because she thinks he looks like a walking tree. Ari just laid her first egg this week and it is blue just like Ali's.