Monthly Archives: November 2013

Tomato Tasting

Now that it’s good and cold—in the northern United States anyway—I thought I would warm us up a bit by reporting on a tomato-tasting Mike and I attended in September. The Dennis’ 7 Dees nursery staff took the whole thing fairly seriously—it was a competition, after all, in its ninth year. There was professional signage, lists of descriptions and days-to-maturity, and even a scoring sheet. And there were tomatoes. Dozens of types of tomatoes.

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I tend to favor those ugly, bulbous heirlooms—it’s all about the flavor and texture. When I lived in the Columbia River Gorge, I picked Persimmon, Mortgage Lifter and Big Beef as my go-to breeds. I also planted one Early Girl just because they mature sooner, and those little yellow pear-shaped cherry tomatoes. I tried Stupice but they never wowed me; I never settled on a particular type of Roma. Here was my chance to try some of the kinds I’d seen in seed catalogs but never grown.

The selection was impressive. 2013 was a good year for tomatoes in Portland, so they all looked robust. Each breed had a full-grown tomato on display as well as a plate with its vine-mates cut into pieces, and a sign to indicate what it was. The nursery made the scoring sheet for visitors that they could keep, and also tracked favorites so they would be sure to stock them the following spring.

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I was interested in the Zebra breeds as I met their creator, Tom Wagner, at an InFARMation event in 2012. Delicious. I loved the Pineapple and Black Russian specimens. But my favorite, I think (after a while the acids render your tastebuds useless), was the Striped German. Dense, sweet, zippy. Tender. I found myself going back to it just to be sure it was actually my favorite.

I’m not sure what tomatoes I can grow here at 4,300 feet. But I have an idea of what I want to plant! In the meantime, I will enjoy the vibrant colors of these photos.

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The Winner!

The Winner!

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Winter Gardening

Most gardeners spend the autumn months putting everything “to bed”—pulling any remaining dead plants; mulching; maybe planting some garlic bulbs for the following spring. Not Niki Jabbour! For her, winter is just another gardening season.

Niki is the author of Year-Round Vegetable Gardener from Storey Press. We exchanged books a couple of months ago, and I’m glad we did! Niki has worked out an impressive system of cold frames, row covers and hoop houses that keeps her in fresh food all year ‘round. The clincher? She lives in Nova Scotia. First-frost-in-October-and-last-frost-in-May Nova Scotia.

Year Round Veg Gardener CoverYear-Round Vegetable Gardener is organized by season and then by crop (vegetables and herbs), making it an easy reference. She covers all the usual suspects, and also some cold-hardy greens I’d never heard of, like mibuna, claytonia, and mâche. Well, I’d heard of claytonia, but only as miner’s lettuce, and I’d only seen it wild on our land in Washington.

Jabbour spent the time to get photos from all seasons to demonstrate what she’s talking about. She also includes the gardens of a few neighbors to present the widest variety of strategies possible. Photographs explain how to build some of the coverings shown.

The book has an engaging layout and a friendly, encouraging tone. Pull-outs and sidebars provide her favorite seed varieties, when to plant in relation to first and last frost, and other hints and tidbits.

Now, the rest of us have no excuse not to grow fresh food all year.

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Doggone Happy

It’s been a long time coming. When my husband’s and my dog, Phynn, was killed on the highway by our house in White Salmon, we were devastated. We decided to wait a year before replacing her, and then I lost my job and we could no longer afford a dog. When we sold our farm, we lacked a secure home, and then when we rented in Portland the man who owned our house wouldn’t let us have a dog.

The long and short of it is … we haven’t had a dog in seven years. It’s been a long seven years. So, when we found a house to rent in Enterprise that allows pets, we figured we should make up for lost time. Without further ado, I give you Cap’n and Pendleton!

Cap'n on the left; Pendleton on the right. Very happy me in the middle

Cap’n on the left; Pendleton on the right. Very happy me in the middle

The link below will take you to a video I uploaded to YouTube:

http://youtu.be/vGxSA_B19rE

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First Snow

Seldom do things work this neatly: Mike mowed on Sunday, and we woke Monday morning to snow flurries!

I find few things as cozy as sitting in a warm house and watching snow fall. The idea of snow in October might fill some of your hearts with dread. But, this year at least, I am totally ready for it. We had a beautiful spring and possibly a record-breaking summer in Portland (No rain in May? No rain in June??). I have been so crazy-busy for the last year (or two years … or five years … I’ve lost count) that I am looking forward to getting snowed in this winter and staying put for a few months.

This Monday-morning squall dropped snow for about an hour, after which it immediately started to melt. It was gone by the afternoon. But I ran out and took some photos once the skies cleared.

Snowy wheat

Snowy wheat

Snowy new snow boot

Snowy new snow boot

I love the feeling of coming inside from playing in the snow, when your cheeks are cold but your body glows from the exercise.

I don’t know if it was this storm in particular, or if we’re in a snow belt. After the storm, there was no snow in the trees on the slope above us, nor below us in the valley. This was the opposite of the cold, dry days we’ve been having, when the frost settles in the valley but is already burned off at our house. It’s an interesting mix of physics—cold settles, but we are higher in elevation, facing east.

I predict we will have ample chance to continue this study!

More where this came from ...

More where this came from …

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