Thursday, March 8, 2012

You Can Grow This! Part Deux (with recipe!)

Last year, Tiny Tim's Garden looked like this in mid June:

Nothing like morning light to show off plants, right?

Isn't "Bright Lights" Swiss Chard almost shockingly beautiful?

Broccoli rabe looks good enough to eat at 7:00 a.m

Here's what all the glorious vegetables, herbs and annual flowers had in common.

 They came from this:

Started life in my unheated mudroom, and 

Moved to roomier digs before they got planted outside after the ubiquitous "all danger from frost has passed."

MWH (my wonderful husband) built a 6 x 8 greenhouse last year and just put together a retro two tier plant stands with two grow lights on them.  Both treasures came from the Craig's List "farm and garden" listings and were CHEAP! (Check it out daily - you'll never know what you'll find).
With these additions, you can imagine that I'm going a little nuts, but I do have method in my madness.  My goal is to give spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, beets and herbs starts to a low-income housing community here.  The residents have well made raised beds on the property and do a great job raising vegetables, but since they're on fixed incomes, free starts will save them a bit.

Here's where you might help out.  Have you been collecting 2" pots and transplant six plants in your garage or potting bench area?  Let me recycle them for you!  I will gladly meet you and take them off your hands.

If you haven't seen it yet, here's a link to The Farmers Almanac, showing when we can start seeds inside, when we can transplant or sow seeds directly in the ground. Enter your zip code and The Farmer's Almanac will graciously give that information specific to your locale.

Are you growing starts this year, and what are your favorites?  How do you do it?

For your dining pleasure, may I offer an easy St. Patrick's Day recipe for a variety of Irish Colcannon that has a few extra goodies in it from  Talk about comfort food!  



Mashed Potatoes with Kale and Leeks



    • 8 medium red potatoes
    • 2 cups kale, chopped (not packed too snugly)
    • 1 medium leeks, thinly sliced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
    • 1-2 T. lemon juice 
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    • 1 cup potato water
    • salt and pepper


  1. Cube and boil potatoes (with skins) in lightly salted water.
  2. Drain, reserve 1 cup water.
  3. Saute garlic and leek in 2 Tbs oil until translucent.
  4. Add kale, saute  until wilted.
  5. Squirt some lemon juice, about 1T. to maintain color and add flavor
  6. Mash potatoes with reserved water, 2 remaining Tbs of oil.
  7. Fold in sauteed veggies.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

You Can Grow That! (And a mouthwatering recipe, too)

Today, I'm joining noted gardening gardening expert C.L. Fornari and garden bloggers around the world to create a collection of various garden blog posts on the 4th of every month that can serve to raise awareness of the joy and importance of gardening and planting.

Today, I want to talk about garlic, and how easy it is to grow.  It starts with friendship.    Years ago, I met Mike Finger, of Cedarville Farms at his stall at the Bellingham Farmer's Market and I instantly respected his commitment to organic farming.  He and his wife Kim are warm, caring and informed, and never seem to forget a customer's name.  If I was going to start growing garlic, then I was going start by supporting a friend, and make a great experience even better.

So back last September, I went to the Farmer's Market, and made a beeline for Mike's stall.  Sure enough, there was a beyootiful head of Rojo garlic.  I brought it home, separated the cloves, and stuck 15 in the ground.  Here's the result, today, March 4, 2012:

Aren't they pretty? 
My friend Jackie had me thinking about Garlic Soup this week since she'd had a great bowl in Coupeville over the weekend.  That sounded so good after all our grey, rainy days!  Last night I adapted a recipe from The Novice Chef  based on what I had on hand.   It was terrific!  My Wonderful Husband (MWH) and I finished it all, making  involuntary little mewing sounds of contentment with every spoonful.   
 Tiny Tim's Roasted Garlic Soup

2 heads of garlic,                                  1/2 C. Sauvignon Blanc wine
 top sliced off                                       1/2 C. water
1 garnet yam, peeled                            1/2 t. Salt
1 acorn squash                                     1/2 fresh cracked pepper
Olive oil                                               1/4 t. dried thyme
Butter                                                   1/4 t. Cajun seasoning
1 large sweet onion                              2 C. organic chicken broth
 sliced thinly                                         Sour cream or yogurt
2 T. Flour

Set oven to 400.  Put both heads garlic on a piece of foil, drizzle olive oil on them and seal them into a packet.   Cut the yam and squash into small pieces, place them in a large baking dish, and drizzle olive oil liberally over all.  Put both the baking dish and the packet of garlic for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter and olive oil (whatever amount you want) in a large, deep frying pan.   Over medium high heat, cook the sliced onions for about 15 minutes, until browned and crispy.  Sprinkle the flour over the onions, and deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping all the good bits up.  Add the spices and remove from heat.

Turn off oven and remove garlic and baking dish.  While the garlic and squash cool a bit, add the yam to the onion, turn to medium heat and stir.  Squeeze the garlic into the mixture, cut the peel away from the squash, and add them to the mixture, stirring to mix them in.  Add the water and broth and bring to boil, stirring constantly.  

Carefully put the pieces and liquid into a blender or Cuisinart and liquify.  Repeat the process until you have a thick soup that smells outrageously good.  Taste, correct seasoning (the Cajun seasoning is awfully good), ladle into bowls and top with sour cream or yogurt.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Time To Laugh

 My apologies for being absent these three weeks.  Life has been busy, especially in the garden and more to come about starting seeds, preparing the garden, etc.

However, I wanted to share this great poem from Geoffrey B. Charlesworth that I'm reblogging from A Way To Garden.  For every gardener who's lost a plant, a row of seedlings, a tree, whatever, this poem will make you laugh through your (frustrated) memories!

Why Did My Plant Die?
Geoffrey B. Charlesworth
(reposted from A Way To Garden)

You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You hoed it down. You weeded it.
You planted it the wrong way up.
You grew it in a yogurt cup
But you forgot to make a hole;
The soggy compost took its toll.
September storm. November drought.
It heaved in March, the roots popped out.
You watered it with herbicide.
You scattered bonemeal far and wide.
Attracting local omnivores,
Who ate your plant and stayed for more.
You left it baking in the sun
While you departed at a run
To find a spade, perhaps a trowel,
Meanwhile the plant threw in the towel.
You planted it with crown too high;
The soil washed off, that explains why.
Too high pH. It hated lime.
Alas it needs a gentler clime.
You left the root ball wrapped in plastic.
You broke the roots. They’re not elastic.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You splashed the plant with mower oil.
You should do something to your soil.
Too rich. Too poor. Such wretched tilth.
Your soil is clay. Your soil is filth.
Your plant was eaten by a slug.
The growing point contained a bug.
These aphids are controlled by ants,
Who milk the juice, it kills the plants.
In early spring your garden’s mud.
You walked around! That’s not much good.
With heat and light you hurried it.
You worried it. You buried it.
The poor plant missed the mountain air:
No heat, no summer muggs up there.
You overfed it 10-10-10.
Forgot to water it again.
You hit it sharply with the hose.
You used a can without a rose.
Perhaps you sprinkled from above.
You should have talked to it with love.
The nursery mailed it without roots.
You killed it with those gardening boots.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Women, Farms & Food Conference, 2012 and First Free Seed Start Giveaway Contest!

Imagine a large, comfortable room filled with 90 women on a sunny Saturday morning in Mount Vernon, WA.   They're young, they're middle aged,   they're retired and raising sheep to mow their lawns. It's a multi-cultural group. Actually, these women are from as far away as British Columbia and Duvall, though most are from Whatcom, Skagit, Island and northern Snohomish County. They are here with a purpose:  to learn as much as they can about successful strategies for sustaining small farms.

The energy is palpable.  The women understand that there is a big gap in the market for small and midsized farms. The question is how to be successful, and during the morning we are blessed with excellent speakers who tackle that huge question succinctly:

  • Lyn Garling (Over The Moon Farm)

  • Shelly Muzzall (3 Sisters Family Farms)

  • Serena Hedlin (Hedlin Family Farms)

  • Patricia Lovejoy (Arlington Garden Treasures)

  • They encourage us:  The public wants to know where their food comes from, they want to know their food is safe, that they are eating "real food."  Communities like ours support their local farmers, and want to know their farmer.  Their comments included: "You have to know your numbers," "Remember to be grateful every day," "Direct marketing must include social media, including Facebook, your website, a blog and Linked-In."

    This conference also had audience breakout groups, and these terrific women shared great information (start your peppers and tomatoes now inside or in greenhouses to have vigorous healthy plants when it warms up), the best farmer's markets, how getting certified as an organic farm, etc.

    After a very delicious lunch catered by Cafe Burlington (check out their website and try them-great philosophy and food), "recovered procrastinator" Rita Emmett shared invaluable tips to make us more productive. 
      I loved this slide with a quote from Michael Jordan.
    Thanks to WSU, we all took home an autographed copy The Procrastinator's Handbook; Mastering the Art of Doing It Now.
    So I've come home to Tiny Tim's Garden determined to give back the generosity I received today--and try out my greenhouse.  So, I'm announcing my First Whatcom County Seed Starts Giveaway Contest.  Here's how it works:  Monday I'm going to plant spinach, Swiss Chard, cabbage, chives and the other plants recommended by The starts should be nice and strong and ready to plant by mid - late March.

    To win, leave me a comment with the three starts you'd most like to have ready to plant in your garden.  Tiny Tim and I will pick the winner at random. So good luck, and if you're a gardener, don't forget to check out the WSU Extension website for great info.

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Occupy vs. Monsanto: Activists, Farmers Fight the Corporation They Fear Will Take Over All America's Crops | | AlterNet

    I'm a gardener. I love the sheer variety of seeds, especially heirloom seeds, saved over generations.

    I'm also thrifty, and enjoy saving seeds because that saves me money. The idea that any company limits the right of a farmer or gardener to save seeds by genetically engineering the seeds so the farmer has to shell out hard earned dollars every years strikes me as a terrible form of capitalism.

    I'm not sure scientific "answers" are healthy. Too many people die, years later, from science gone wrong, and there's never enough money or interest in doing long term research.

    I'm a gardener. Count me as one of the 99% and I hope you read this post from Alternet.

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Community Seed Swap--What A Gift!

     Hats off to Sustainable Bellingham's Community Seed Day!  For a gardener who loves germinating vegetables and flowers, this was the equivalent of Christmas, hitting the lottery and going to the best party ever.  For everyone who cares about preserving heirloom varieties, eating non-GMO food and living more sustainably, the Community Seed Day is a rare and precious event.

    I got up at 5:30 to sort through my seeds and package the ones I wanted to share.  Between the vegetables and herbs, I had 32 small labeled packets as well as 20 seed potatoes. James, my wonderful neighbor and fellow gardener to the north, met me outside his house, and we arrived at the Majestic right at 1:00 pm.  Inside, the party had already begun:
     Bellingham Gardeners at play!

    Altogether, the organizers had set up three rows of conference tables with four tables in each row, as well as six large round tables on the perimeter.   I quickly unloaded my little seed packets and potatoes, and people swarmed up, curious about my varieties and the seed companies.  As soon as people heard Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Gourmet Seeds International, Renee's Garden Seeds, and Territorial Seed Company, they helped themselves.  Most people had never heard of The Maine Potato Lady, and I got some good natured ribbing about my carbon footprint at Sustainable Bellingham.  However, the potatoes pile dwindled fast, leaving me free to take a deep breath and get my gifts.

    I call them gifts because no money changes hands:  all the seeds were free.  Amazing, right?  They're gifts from people who love to garden and have bounty to share, and no one cares whether you are a genuine "seed swapper" or someone looking to find great seeds for your 2012 garden. 

    And what great seeds and varieties I found.  First, along with 100 other attendees, I have to thank  Irish Eyes Garden Seeds from Ellensburg, WA for donating their unsold 2011 seeds to Sustainable Bellingham.  The vegetable seed packets I got were organic, and many were heirloom varieties--score!   One good turn deserves another, so I will be ordering German Butterball seed potatoes from Irish Eyes this week.  Their potatoes are Washington State Certified disease-free and suitable for use as seeds.  Next year, my carbon footprint won't look so bad!

    As I went up and down the tables, my grin kept getting bigger and bigger, as I saw the amazing vegetable seeds available.  

    Local farmers brought bags of leftover seeds from Fedco and other sources, and most delightful of all, people brought in all kinds of seeds they had saved themselves.

    There were serious hills of saved beans:  pole, bush, runner--you name it.

    Imagine:  free potatoes,  garlic and dahlias for the taking!
    My fellow gardeners and I tried to be  respectful and unselfish, taking small handfuls of seeds  tucking them into envelopes kindly provided by the sponsors, and making sure we labeled them accurately to avoid a future catastrophe (eek, what seed is this!). 

    Some packets looked like they had been donated from local stores; for example, I picked up an unopened packet of Territorial Seed Company's  2011 Gourmet Salad mix.  Other seeds had come from home stashes; I don't think anyone took home the 2001 lettuce seeds, but most seeds were much more recent.  Here's a tip from a local farmer:

    "The bigger the seed, the longer it will keep.  The tiny seeds, like lettuce and radishes probably won't germinate after a couple years." 

    All in all, I had a blast, met some great people and  came home with 48 (GULP) different varieties of vegetable and herb seeds. Call me crazy, but the Community Seed Day is my idea of a great time.

    Tuesday, January 31, 2012

    The Seed Catalogues Are Here, The Seed Catalogues Are Here!

    Do you remember the day you planted your first vegetable or flower seeds? Last week, cooped up by snow and the raging sniffles, I thought about my gardening journey.  

    It started in hot, smoggy southern California.  Both my Mom and my Nana loved their 1960's suburban back yards, but never wanted to plant seeds.  Mom had six different fruit trees (none that ever produced any edible good fruit) and lots of ice plant around her nicely manicured lawn.  Nana had a lovely rose garden, a huge lawn that grew dandelions, a sweet blossoming orange tree, nice lemon trees, and a truly scary black English walnut that dropped wormy nuts every October.  

    Nana also handed out pennies per pulled dandelion. Weeds, dirt and grass all smelled good to me so I never minded digging out the weeds. Besides, I liked being by myself, thinking and imagining epic tales involving romance, bravery, loss and reunion with Dr. Kildare. 

    One fateful winter day when I was ten or eleven, I spotted an ad in my "Weekly Reader," proclaiming that kids could make lots of extra money selling seeds to their neighbors.  My Mom actually agreed to the scheme without too much fuss, and I wrote away for the seed selling kit.  A month later, the mailman delivered  small brown  package addressed to me!  It was thrilling, like Christmas and a birthday rolled into one.

    Lifting out the packets one by one,   I read charming names above the pretty pictures: Petunias, Candytuft, Bachelor Buttons, Marigolds, Baby's Breath, and Sweet Alyssum. Of course, I had to open a package and couldn't believe what I saw   Flowers actually came from the tiniest bits of stuff, and that just seemed, if it were true, crazy miraculous.  Would these little specks really grow and become alive if I planted and watered them? 

    They did,  even though I had  planted them under our clothesline in the heaviest parched clay soil imaginable.  My magenta petunias, blue bachelor buttons, white baby's breath and pale yellow marigolds made me feel like Mary in The Secret Garden and it still does.  Of course, I never sold any seeds and ended up having to buy them all, but what a small price for a lifetime love?

    Now, of course, buying seeds is even more fun.  Big glossy catalogs start appearing in the mailbox in December, and  that sends me to
     2012 seed catalog haul
    the Internet for on-line sales.  Here are my annual winter joys:  my favorite seed catalogs and websites.

    Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds -   In 1998, seventeen year old Jere Gettle started packaging and selling open-pollinated, non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented seeds.  Thirteen years later, he has three brick and mortar stores in three states and some of best seeds around.  Fabulous selection.

    Gourmet Seed International - Great old vegetable, herbs and flower varieties from Europe, many of them organic, and they always have something interesting on sale.  Pea seeds for microgreens, anyone?

    The Maine Potato Lady - Alison may not be local, but her organic seed potato selection is consistent, disease free and delicious.  Nice knowledgeable people.

    Nichols Garden Nursery - I've had nothing but great service from this Oregon company for over twenty years.  Their herbs and lettuce seeds become terrific healthy plants, and for sheer variety of color, nothing beats their calendula seeds.

    Renee's Garden Seeds   - "Set the table from the garden" is Renee Shephard's motto and her gourmet and heirloom seed varieties have definitely enhanced our summer meals.  Check out her charming illustrated seed packets and helpful, detailed growing directions. Renee's home base is near my old stomping grounds in Santa Cruz, CA and I am a loyal fan.

    Territorial Seed Company - A mammoth catalog filled with Pacific Northwest friendly seeds from a company that cares about quality.  Many organic varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers.  Territorial's pea varieties are endless and they have the very best nasturtium selection anywhere.

    Uprising Seeds - "100% Certified Organic Open Pollinated and Heirloom Seeds from the Pacific Northwest" and the owners live in Bellingham, WA.  I've met and talked with Chrystine and Brian, and they are so dedicated to providing regionally grown healthy heirloom seeds from their own farm in Acme as well as from their network of family owned farms in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California.  Their variety and germination rates improves every year, and they are truly good, community oriented people.

    There you have my favorite catalogs, and I'd love to know about your favorite seed companies.  Happy shopping, and it's not too early to start sowing spinach, herbs, and Swiss Chard starts!

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    January Snow: Let the pictures tell the story

    This week, Bellingham and the Pacific Northwest slowed way down, blanketed by snow and ice.  At my house, the car hasn't moved out of the driveway since Saturday.  However, a good pair of boots and a camera can go anywhere.  Here are some of the images we saw from January 16 - 20, 2012.

    Not sure about this stuff

    Snowflakes in the garden window

    Sign of warmer times-the icicle cometh

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Pleasure in the Pathless Woods

    The sight, touch and taste of snow eluded me until I was sixteen years old and having my first New Year's Eve date in Philadelphia.  The huge deep pleasure of just walking in the woods didn't come until the following summer, when my foster family took me to the Harrison Hot Springs Lodge in lower British Columbia. A born and bred southern California San Fernando Valley girl, both experiences left me speechless with joy as my senses reached new levels, and my soul whispered, "Beauty."
    Now we live a scant 1 1 /2 hours from Harrison Hot Springs in Bellingham, WA on a verdant quarter acre sloping up a hill.  Trees are everywhere, perfect for catching snow on their bare limbs, or even smaller places:

    Snow, moss and tree bark

    Near us, Whatcom Falls Park welcomes me and my camera, daring me to stop trying for aerobic benefits and to try instead to capture the large and small scenes I love:

    Ferns joyously welcoming snow

    Three season symphony

    Winter creek and plants
    It's snowed most of today already and I think we may be in for a major dump over the next three days.  This morning I dutifully did laundry and vacuumed, but Timmy and Boo stole my attention as they raced, batted, and swallowed the wily white stuff.  Young cats really do love snow, and will spend hours chasing it, returning home white, wet and grateful for warm homes and soft places to sleep.

    It's time for me to make comfort food, especially home-made sourdough bread with my two month old starter, Fairhaven Organic Flour and my gorgeous present from Bruce, a Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer.   Fresh bread made with great organic ingredients, without additives, hot from the oven and slathered with butter is . . . as pleasurable as a walk in the woods after a snow fall.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    The Gathering

    Today, three people whom I call family have driven from Palm Springs to Santa Barbara.  Their purpose, as in the Jewish tradition, is to attend an old friend's memorial.  My foster mother was one of Leah's  closest friends:  "We were like sisters, since we were six years old," Doris has told me many times in the last month.  Up to three weeks ago, Doris and Leah called each other weekly, sometimes more. 

    Now, Doris, her son Glen, and daughter Lauren, drive up Pacific Coast Highway to say a final goodbye with Leah's family and friends.  They will celebrate Leah's good life with stories, photographs, good food and so much laughter.

    Knowing how sad Doris is at Leah's passing makes me think how incredibly important it is to be a good family member, to be a good friend, to be proactively loving in our lives.  We can't wait for others to show love.  We love, we care, we reach out, we nurture.  It's our job, as hard as that is.

    Tiny Tim's Garden is not perfect, and I'm too old to expect perfection in the garden or in the gardener, or in my friends and family.   My graced life has evolved from so much despair and pain as I searched for love, beauty and truth.    Now, I am nothing but grateful for the wondrous good in my life.  And in the garden,  with cats, family and friends here and around the world, life and love are triumphant over death today.