Giant ‘Mater

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Hey Captain Brian, this one’s for you!

In the world of heirlooms, ugly is king. And this behemoth–weighing in at just under three pounds of juicy, gnarled splendor–reigns supreme. Wish we’d grown it, but almost as good: we won it at the local farmer’s market by guessing its weight. Our own tomatoes got a late start this year, so now we’re racing frost and rain to ripen. In the mean time, we’re happy to support our fellow farmers and stuff our sandwiches with “foraged” ‘maters from the farmer’s market. Delicious.

 

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Weekend’s Work

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In an effort to make our vegetable growing a little easier and less weedy, I put in some rough raised beds at the farm this past weekend. Stacy scored some low-cost salvaged 2 X 10s to keep the price down, and I think they’ll work great. Yeah, we’re off to a late start this year for veggies, but we just got too busy with other, more pressing farm projects earlier in the spring. So I’m hoping for good, warm summer weather and lots of sunshine to help make up for lost time. And if nothing else, the beds will be set for next year.

We’re also excited to be testing organic fish compost from Oly Mountain on several blueberry rows this spring. This awesome looking product is made locally in Belfair, and contains fully composted fish byproducts along with wood and garden waste. When they brought the test product, we bought some extra for the raised beds, which I think will help accelerate our growing process as well. Will report back as we watch how it works.

Now I just have to rig the watering system for the beds, repair a few spots in the blueberry drip lines, and finish staking the drip tape in the dahlia beds and we’ll be set for dry weather. Come on, sunshine!


Lummi Island

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Wow. Just home from a fantastic two-day book event at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Stacy, Skyla, Weston and I all had a wonderful time, and I can’t imagine a better place for food, books and sheer beauty. We arrived, checked into a beautiful house on Legoe Bay and had to fight off the urge to run down to the beach and fish. We were due shortly at the reading, which was hosted by author Julie Trimingham (her novel, Mockingbird, will be out in July) at her lovely waterfront farm, Loganita.

We gathered in the airy, glass-fronted meeting place with sunshine streaming in and breathtaking views of the Strait of Georgia and San Juan Islands. To be honest, it was a bit difficult to start talking about the book and reading with a backdrop like that. But the guests were enthusiastic, engaged and kind, and I think it went pretty well. And the snacks provided by the Willows Inn kitchen! Huge, sweet radishes fresh from the raised beds out back, with a creamy dipping sauce; local goat and sheep cheeses; handmade herb crackers; and some spectacular, chewy, salt-dried whole smelt (kind of like portable, jerky versions of Spanish bacalao) that I couldn’t stop eating.

Dinner was even better. The whole group dined together on all the best locally grown, caught and foraged ingredients, lovingly (and skillfully) prepared. Highlights for me were the steamer clams in herb broth, the pan-roasted local asparagus and a halibut dish that literally melted in the mouth. Oh, and the house-made bread, crusty and slathered with fresh-churned Island herb butter, that we ate with everything. Awesome. If there’s a unifying theme to the cooking here, to me it’s that they feature the fresh, intense flavors of the raw products with a light (and perfect) cooking and seasoning touch. It’s a philosophy that requires an enormous amount of skill to pull off, and they do it here at the highest level.

Next day started with eggs “benedict” made with locally reef-net caught sockeye lox, and blueberry-buckwheat pancakes, followed by a tour of the restaurant garden with culinary gardener Mary. Stacy put on her boots and did a little garden work (you can take a farmer off the farm, but…) while I stood around and talked books with the guests. Finally, the kids and I hit the beach for a little fishing. Actually, Skyla led the charge and took off with the six-weight while I was still eating lunch. I snapped this picture from the balcony, as Skyla worked a Miyawaki popper off the rocks.

Then it was off to the ferry and the drive home. We were all a little sad to leave beautiful Lummi and all the wonderful people we met there, but inspired as well. Many thanks to Julie and everyone at the Willows Inn and Village Books for their generous, thoughtful hosting, and to the guests who came to share the experience. Our family definitely felt the love. As Paul from Village Books said at dinner, “We come together here as strangers and leave as friends.” True, that.


Summer Veggies Ahead

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Okay, time to get down off my soap box and back to regular life. Lots going on around here with farm and garden, which is to say we’re hopping around like crazed monkeys. Must be spring.

When we left for our road trip, Stacy planted veggie seeds for indoor starts, watered them in and covered the seedling trays with clear plastic lids. When we returned home, this is what greeted us. Broccoli starts, reaching for the sky. Or ceiling, as it were. We can hardly wait to start eating.

Put the tiller on the tractor yesterday, and I’m going to grind dirt later this week. New plan this year is to try to build more raised beds at the farm and get ’em filled and ready before the starts need to be transplanted. I spent last weekend deconstructing the irrigation system and stakes in the dahlia bed for tilling and prep. Still need to put it all back together again…stay tuned.


Road Trip II

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After the caverns, we rolled north through the Siskiyous under gorgeous spring sunshine, listening to the adventures of Hank the Cowdog. Made a brief stop in Ashland for lunch but didn’t linger–Stacy was already feeling the pull of her personal Mecca: The Territorial Seed Company store in Cottage Grove, Oregon. (If you haven’t experienced their catalog, it’s probably the finest entertainment value for twenty-five cents anywhere in the world.)

We pulled in around 6:00pm and Stacy went to work, diving into the aisles and combing the seed packet bins. After reading and ordering from the catalog for years, it was great to make the pilgrimage. And the retail store did not disappoint. They had everything Stacy was looking for, and the people working there were even more knowledgeable and nicer than we ever could have expected.

The kids and I took advantage of the big parking lot and warm, evening sun for a little shirtsleeve frisbee session, and when Stacy was finally done, we packed 50 pounds of organic fertilizer and a shopping bag full of seeds into our already-stuffed car. I have no idea how it all fit, but it felt great to stock up on our summer provisions right from the source. And then…on the road again, headed north.