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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Thursday, October 27, 2011
A couple weeks ago, we took a family adventure to a cabin over in the hills near Winthrop. The Rendezvous Huts are somewhat well known as the ultimate cross country skiing experience in the winter - 5 huts with miles of ski trails between them. Just last year they decided to open them up for rental during the spring & fall. During the winter you have to ski to even reach them and your gear is carted up on a snowmobile. Lucky for us, everything is connected by forest service roads in the summer.
When we got to the last turn off to our cabin, it was not marked in any way ("take the first right after the cattle guard") and the very primitive road seemed to go on forever to who knows where. Finally we spotted the hut, perched on a hill overlooking the Methow valley. No civilization in sight (the nearest cabin is aprox 1 mile away and hills hide winthrop, mazama, etc)
It was awesome. Ok, a little panicky at first because it was getting dark quickly and we had to figure out how to turn on the propane lights & stove so we could cook our dinner. Did I mention the hut has no running water, no refrigeration - but does have an outhouse, a wood stove stocked with firewood and a huge propane tank for a couple lights & the stove? Awesome. After dinner we sat outside and marveled at the stars & full moon. When we woke up the next morning, we were greeted with snow dusted peaks out the whole wall of windows opposite our beds.
singletrack" bike trails, but the one near us was sort of steep, so me & the kids left the bikes behind. There was also supposed to be a lot of wildlife in the area (bears, cougars, deer) but all we saw were lots of cows. The cabin is on leased DNR land and apparently they also lease the land to cattle farmers. We met some who were rounding up the cattle to bring them in for the winter (wearing cowboy hats & riding horses) and had a good chat about what happens to the meat. The cows are out there for about 6 months of their lives - spring till fall, then the calves get shipped to feed lots where they live for about a year before they are harvested. Sometimes the owners sell to Painted Hills - a high end producer in Idaho, but this year the cows were headed to a mega (dare I say "factory farm"?) place in Oklahoma. Crazy that it makes more (financial) sense to ship them that far then have them stay nearby. And crazy that these pasture raised cows were just going to a mega packhouse instead of being "high end". Anyways, I digress.
Saben & I went off together to try and reach the top of this big hill behind our hut (seen below...kyle climbed & biked down it a few times). He has finally reached the age where he can do some real hiking. We went up and up the steep slope for 20 minutes, stopping for views and with me yelling silly things constantly to scare the bears away. I couldn't believe how far up he went and we never did reach the top since we hadn't really told kyle where we were going and I didn't want him to worry.
Uno with the family instead. I don't think you'd actually want to go in the heat of summer, much cozier in the fall or spring.
Basically the cabin is like camping without having to pack so much. And it is more isolated than any campground and even than a lot of backpacking locations. Its clean - but not spotless. Dead bugs were around, even in some of the dishes that hadn't been used in a while. But if you can handle that, the view & isolation more than make up for it.
at 12:14 PM
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I have been living in the dark ages and just now finally taught myself how to use picasa. You don't even want to know the tedious things I was doing prior in order to publish pictures. For some reason I just didn't have it in me to learn new technology until now. I would open picasa, stare at it and then close it again. Then a couple nights ago I figured it out in just 5 minutes and felt like an idiot for wasting so much time.
But...it works now and it is so much easier to post pictures on my blog. Hopefully this means I'll be writing here more!
at 10:15 AM
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Mommy: Annika, tell daddy about the horsey you saw that you want for your birthday!
Annika: You mean the beautiful horsey with shiny wings and a horn and a button you push that makes it talk?
Daddy: It talks! What does it say?
Annika: I don't know!
Daddy: Well that's silly! You should push the button, what if it says something silly?
Saben: I remember what it says! It says "Hey devil woman, I am going to cut your poop in half!"
at 8:04 PM
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Has his first loose tooth, bottom front left. We noticed it about 3 weeks after his sixth birthday.
Is reading like crazy. He can easily read those level two readers these days. It was slow at first, but once it clicked in his brain, he just took off.
Is turning into a pest like his daddy. He is always poking, hitting, & trying to play little jokes on me. I always say "why don't you try doing the dishes for attention instead?" just like I used to tell Kyle.
Wants to play the drums
Is still obsessed with a capital "O" with star wars and legos.
Loves collecting bugs outside
Is quite nervous about his choir concert tomorrow night. It is so cute.
Just graduated from her first year in preschool.
Has her first dance recital in three weeks. She LOVES dance class. We will have to wait and see whether she actually manages to dance in the recital.....
Loves to help me cook dinner. I need to do better at finding her jobs.
Has already ridden saben's big race bike. She got a flat on her little 12" beginner bike, so Kyle took her out on the big one. She prefers the handbrakes and got pretty good at it, but it scares mommy to death when she gets going fast, so she got the 12" bike fixed.
Still adores her buddy Riley, but has managed to make a couple other good friends this year too.
Still throws fits a lot for no apparent reason. : )
Loves to sing to herself and make songs up.
at 8:53 PM
Ok, I know its been forever and I have completely slacked off on my blog. We even passed my five year blogging anniversary without note. I have just been feeling so busy and completely fulfilled with not writing the blog. Its only those adorable amazing moments in my kids life that I worry about not jotting down. Maybe that post will come tomorrow night.....
But for today, I put some new recipes that I have been LOVING lately over on my blog - Rice Bowls. These have been revolutionary for me & the way we use leftovers in our family. I love them once a week for dinner and often have them for lunch now. And I have never been happier eating my raw veggies. Check it out!
p.s. All credit for the "rice bowls" idea goes to my friend Adriana. I have no idea why it never occurred to me to make something like these before, but I am so grateful she taught me such a simple idea.
at 8:45 PM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I am going to go over the very first things you can stick in your garden each spring. These things all love the cool rainy weather and can handle early spring frosts. In a warmer year, you might be able to put seedlings of these in your garden by the first week of march.
The biggest thing I factor into my early spring garden is pests and how to avoid them.
First though, a caveat. Everyone's garden is different and every year is different. To some extent you have to just experiment to see what things you are able to grow in your own garden.
Just because I get horrible nasty aphids on my Kale, does not mean you will. I have LOTS of pests in my neighborhood & in my garden. Way more than I ever had in Seattle. So take all my advice with a grain of salt. If you love something, give it a try,and don't be discouraged if it doesn't work for you the first time. There are so many tricks that can overcome problems in your garden.
Spring planting - beat the offenders (eat it before they do)
Slugs, aphids, white fly, cabbage worm, carrot rust fly and beetle root maggots are my worst offenders. Right now, there are virtually no pests in my garden except slugs, because of the cold weather. In a month or so all the little buggers will get much more active and start to find my veggies.
I try to plant my pest vulnerable plants as early as possible so that I can harvest them early before pests get the upper hand and I am forced to toss them in the compost heap. The nice thing is that by the time pests get all crazy, it is time to plant your summer crops - tomatoes, basil, zucchini - so it is never too sad to get rid of the spring green goodies.
In general, pests do not bother strong flavored veggies as much as sweet tender ones. That is why herbs, arugula, mustard, garlic & onions are easier to grow. Everything on the following lists can be planted now (mid to late march) - either by starts or by seeds. Seeds are a bit riskier - if we get a stretch of cold rainy weather with no sunny days, they might not sprout, but you are pretty safe by April.
I am happy to report that my Mizuna sprouted last week, first seeds of the season!
Most of the things on these lists can take some light frost & cold nights. Our official "last day of frost" isn't until the beginning of May, but all these plants should do fine regardless.
Easiest (no pests, high yield)
Snap Peas (or any peas)
Mizuna (salad green)
Medium (not too hard to grow, might get worms in them)
Pesty (but still worth planting!)
Other salad greens like radicchio, amaranth, corn salad (mache), etc.
Almost not worth bothering
Broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower (Along with Kale, they all belong to the "brassica" family and have the same pest problems - aphids, white fly, cabbage worms)
Things I have never grown
and TONS of other things
* These are a bit more difficult because they go to seed quickly and you have to replant them every 3-4 weeks to have a continuous yield
If you want the highest chance of success, start with herbs & snap peas.
These are the fat juicy ones where you eat the whole thing, pod & all. It is hard to get really good snap peas at the grocery stores, so they are top of my veggie garden list for being easy & worth the work.
My snap peas usually produce peas from about June - mid July and then they get a virus and die. Which is fine. When the plants turn yellow, just pull them out to make room for something new.
It is also nice to plant snap peas a couple different times in the spring to spread the harvest out longer. So if you are buying starts, plant one pot now, then plant another one in late April or so. With any luck you'll get a couple extra weeks of harvest.
Herbs are one of the easiest things to grow pest free, are expensive at the grocery stores and add amazing depth to anything you make. I secretly think eating lots of them makes me super healthy. I am convinced they will be the new "blueberries" (superfoods) of the future. I love herbs so much, I will do an entire post soon, devoted just to them.
For now, the best early spring ones to stick in your veggie beds:
This is easy to grow from seed, or just buy a start of it. You really just need one clump of 2-3 plants, whenever I use seed, I get way too many plants and have to pull most of the babies out and toss them in my salads.
Parsley I planted in late summer in Seattle often survived all winter and I could eat it from fall until summer when it went to seed. If you plant it in spring, it will go to seed in the summer. I prefer the taste and texture of flat Italian leaf parsley.
Cilantro & Arugula
Both of these are generally pest free, but need to be planted about every 3-4 weeks if you want to be able to keep eating them for an extended time. Both of them only stay tasty for a few weeks before they go to seed. (cilantro is tasty while flowering, but dies back once seed is made. Arugula is horrible when it grows up to flower) Definitely buy seeds for both of these.
I highly recommend seeding this in, it is so easy and delicious. Less peppery than Arugula, but with a more assertive flavor than sweet lettuce.
I would buy a pot of seeded onion starts or perhaps sets. I grew them once from seed too and that worked pretty well. You can harvest them young for green onions, or let them grow all summer and bulb.
Super duper easy, except that you have to hang it to dry if you want it to store all winter. Never get pests except for the occasional earwig hiding amongst the cloves. However, I do not recommend planting it now unless you are trying to grow "green garlic" (like green onions). It really needs to get in the ground by January.
Also, don't bother planting starts of garlic. And entire head at the farmers market (a good place to find varieties that grow well in your area) will cost a buck or so and will yield 6-10 garlic heads next year. (one head per clove)
I suggest finding a couple interesting varieties at the farmers market, then in October, plant all the biggest cloves. They will grow all winter and you harvest them in aprox. July. Garlic probably needs its own separate tutorial actually, but it is very foolproof once you get the hang of it.
RISKY ROOT VEGGIES
I put all the root vegetables in the medium category because they often get wormy. If you catch the worms (they are teeny and leave an obvious dark path through the veggie) early enough, you can just cut off the portions with the worm holes and eat the rest.
I'm not going to go through each root vegetable, but a few tips
- Eat root veggies small - the longer they are in the ground the wormier they will get. Baby carrots are delicious!
- Radishes are one of the fastest growing veggies around, good for avoiding worms and fun for kids to get quick gratification from planting seeds
- I don't get nearly as many worms in my potatoes (compared to carrots), but I know some people have problems with it.
- I've never actually grown beets, I'm just guessing they are a lot like carrots.
PESTY BUT WORTH IT
All the sweet salad greens
Two tips for getting the best harvest from your salad greens
1. Plant early, eat them young
2. Go on bug/slug patrol
You can start eating lettuce leaves when they are only a couple inches long. Harvest 1-2 leaves per plant and it should keep producing more leaves until it gets super hot & dry. I like to space my lettuces apart so they can actually grow to head size eventually (love the tender inner leaves), but some people just plant them densely and cut them to the ground when they are only 3 inches high for "baby salad mix". That works too and they should regrow 2-3 times using this method.
The best prevention I have found for pests is picking them off (slugs) or picking off infected leaves. As soon as I spot a leaf with aphids or white fly, I pick it off and throw it away. You can also spray the aphids off with a stream of water sometimes. The key is spotting the buggers before they proliferate to plague proportions. Once aphids get the upper hand, it is worth it to just pull the plant out so they don't spread to other plants.
This time of year you will see artichoke starts at the nursery. They are easy to grow, but take up a lot of room. Luckily, they look pretty cool as an ornamental plant and being related to the wild thistle, they don't require the same pampering as many other veggies.
Artichokes need a 3 ft sq space at least and will eventually get 6 feet tall then they are flowering. The part you eat is actually a flower bud, but if it gets buggy, as mine sometimes do, you can just let it go to flower and it is gorgeous.
Each plant will produce for 3-5 years, so pick a permanent spot in your yard for them.