26 August 2007

Visit from Cousin Ray

The first of my extended family has come to visit us! My cousin Ray (son of Brian -> brother of Jeff/Dad) decided to take a week vacation to visit a good friend of his in Portland, and he figured if he was going to travel all the way across the country from New Jersey, he better stop in to say hi to his favorite cousin. So he and his friend drove out to our little homestead for dinner. They arrived a little late to spend any significant time exploring the property or surrounding area, so I guess that means they'll have to come back. ;)

- Mike (& Corinne)

13 August 2007

Garden Update: August

Okay, so it's been almost two months since my last post on the garden; it's time for a garden update.

We went bigger this year, mounding 14 beds and filling the allocated garden space. As with last year's garden, we've had mixed results so far.

Our plans included 3 beds of greens, including spinach, chard, and a number of different salad greens. But the greens were not to be. We planted late, and the temperature had already gotten pretty hot, so many of the seeds didn't germinate. The ones that did come up were decimated by the deer. We're still procrastinating on putting any permanent protection around the garden (read: fence) since the garden is right in front of the house. Long story short: no greens this year.

The cherry tomatoes are just starting to ripen en masse, so with any luck pretty soon we'll be inundated with tomatoes. Despite the result last year, I decided to go for some larger heirloom tomatoes as well; they are growing well so far, and hopefully they'll have enough time to ripen before the season ends.

The single bed of zucchini has produced enough fruit to feed a small army, so we've tried to make as many different zucchini recipes as we could find: Zucchini Bread; Chicken & Zucchini Curry; Lasagna with Zucchini; Baked Stuffed Zucchini; Zucchini Chocolate Cake; Zucchini, Corn & Pepper Hash; Beef, Broccoli & Zucchini Stir Fry; Hoisin Zucchini; Potato, Pepper & Zucchini Hash; Zucchini Fritters, ... and yes, we really made all of those. And more.

Other Squash
The other 4 beds of squash are growing, albeit at a less prolific rate than the zucchini. The delicata squash is growing particularly slowly, so I'm guessing we won't get any fruit from it before frost arrives. Pumpkin looks good; we should be able to start using those soon. The "butternut" squash (photo on right) is a bit of a mystery. It sure doesn't look like any butternut we've seen. We bought a start from a local nursery, so I suspect the plant was mislabeled.

Radish, Onion, Carrot
This bed is looking pretty good - the radishes produced well, and the onions seem to be growing nicely. The deer apparently liked the radish tops, so those are gone; thankfully the radishes had already formed, so I don't think the lack of leaves has stunted its growth.

A whole bed of beans. No fruit yet, but the plants look pretty healthy.

The cucumber are getting big fast; figuring out how to use them all will likely be a problem. Cucumber and tomato salad sure is good, though.

The north side of the garden has several rows of sunflowers; and many of the individual beds have marigolds planted on the ends. Both flowers were grown from seeds Corinne saved from last year.

- Mike (& Corinne)

12 August 2007

Wild Huckleberry Picking

Yes, that's right all you East coast folks - the huckleberry is a real berry and not just the name of a cartoon character. The town of Bingen, WA even has a Huckleberry Festival each year celebrating and serving the fruit.

Huckleberries are a wild berry present in the forests all around Trout Lake. In fact, there is even a street sign when entering Trout Lake indicating the direction to "the" huckleberry fields. However, the most well known fields are apparently picked out pretty quickly, so the locals typically have their own "secret" spots deep in the woods, accessible only via forest roads.

Our neighbor Jack is one such local, and he recently invited us to go picking with he and his daughter Kya. So we hopped in his truck and head up a forest road into the woods. Within the span of just a few hours in the woods, Corinne and I managed to pick about 8 pounds of berries. The berries are difficult to grow commercially, so the ones available in the store are generally pretty expensive - the local farmstand sells them for $7/lb. The berries are a bit tart with a complex flavor; they make good pies and sauces, but are also great on cereal. Thanks, Jack!

- Mike (& Corinne)