Brambleberries in the Rain Gardening with Herbs, Flowers, and Veggies in the Pacific Northwest Sun, 27 Jul 2008 21:38:59 +0000 en Herb Garden Gone to the Cosmos /?p=204 /?p=204#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2008 21:38:59 +0000 Cindy /?p=204

I think I might have let too many cosmos and borage seeds come up this year. They are everywhere in the herb garden! I like to mix flowers, herbs, and veggies together but this is a little bit out of control. My poor lemon balm has been buried and is struggling to find some light. It looks really pretty though so I don’t mind it too much. I think next year I need to be a little bit more aggressive with pulling up the seedlings that have self-sown. I was a little too nice this year and it now shows.

Welcome to Gardening /?p=193 /?p=193#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2008 22:48:28 +0000 Cindy /?p=193 I pulled this out to read yesterday since it has been a very trying year for me gardening wise. Reading this always puts a smile on my face. It sort of makes you wonder what is wrong with us gardeners since we actually enjoy doing this! :-)

Welcome to Gardening

By Judy Roger, GreenPrints Summer 2005


Let’s imagine……

       You are a first rate cook, a great baker. You love all aspects of making and presenting flawless meals, sensational desserts.

       The pie you’re making is faultless, nearly a work of art. You handpick and assemble the ingredients. You set the oven for 350°. You set the pie perfectly in the center of the oven. It remains at 350° for a short while, then drops to 210°. A bit later, it rises to 475°. You have no control of the temperature. The oven does exactly what it wants to do. Your pie suffers.

       Or your cake recipe calls for 1 cup of liquid. Suddenly, you find 2 cups in the mix. Your cake runneth over. Or maybe only a quarter cup instead and you have a baker’s version of clay.

       You make a lemon tart. Extraordinary. You leave your masterpiece in a special spot to cool. Anticipation. You return to find it swarming with bugs.

       Mold attacks your pudding.

       The yellow fruit compote turns brown.

       Your very special, in fact, famous biscotti, are set out, arranged perfectly. Some weird visitor rearranges the display- after tasting a few.

       Welcome to the world of gardening.

Throwing my Hands up in the Air /?p=185 /?p=185#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2008 00:15:28 +0000 Cindy /?p=185 A few weeks back I wrote a post titled “Not for the Faint of Heart”. That post pretty much sums up what I am feeling today. I am beyond frustrated with the night critter that will not stop using my garden as its little playground.

This morning upon rising I opened the curtains to the sliding glass door that leads out to our deck and noticed something just wasn’t right. Two container plants were missing, pots and all. I proceeded to put my garden shoes on (that I now have to keep indoors overnight thanks to my unwelcomed guest) and go outside to see what had become of those plants. One pot was lying on its side behind an herb that is planted by the deck. This particular pot contained some hens and chicks and they were completely torn apart.

The other pot contained a pretty pink flowering rosemary that I have been completely in love with. I had rescued it from my 14 year old’s garden plot where it was not doing so good. Upon placing it in that pot a few months back it started to take off and look very nice. In fact I had been considering taking some cutting off of it and shaping it into a standard.

The picture below shows the rosemary and the pot of hens and chicks. It was taken just three days ago.

I found the terra cotta pot the rosemary was in upside down and completely empty in the yard a few feet from the deck. There was not a trace of soil left in the pot. I searched all over the back yard for the missing rosemary all the while trying to figure out why this night visitor would run off with a rosemary. I had given up finding it and turned my attention to the vegetable garden to make sure no damage was done in there. It was then that I almost stepped on my poor little rosemary. It was lying right at the entry way to the vegetable garden and was completely unrecognizable. It was totally mauled and contained not a lick of soil around what was left of its roots.

I picked it up and placed it in a bucket of water thinking I would transplant it later on today all the while trying to fool myself that it still had a chance. I do not think there is much hope in it surviving but I will at least try.

I am very confused as to why this animal is doing these things. My finished compost that contains many worms was raided again as well. The unfinished compost however was left untouched. Not once has our trash can ever been messed with so if it is indeed a raccoon then why is it destroying things like my potted plants. I am so baffled and ready to give up. Why did it go after a plant I am very attached to right now? Why couldn’t it have gone after a pot that is not doing so well. I would not be quite so upset to see some other potted plants go. It seems to gravitate towards whatever I focus my attention on.

I told my sons this morning that I think I need to give up gardening and just focus on knitting because at least with knitting nothing comes along in the night and wrecks utter havoc on all your hard work.

How do other gardeners out there cope with situations like this? Do you ever just want to throw in the trowel as well? What sort of gardening mishaps test your will to continue? This particular one has pushed me to the limits. I do not know how to keep this intruder out of my yard and gardens.

The Ghost of a Garden Visitor /?p=173 /?p=173#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2008 22:40:55 +0000 Cindy /?p=173 Today my oldest son was out helping me remove some seriously invasive Scotch Broom from the very back area of our yard. There is a whole wall of them at the back end of the property and since moving in here I have been debating whether or not we should remove them. They have been acting as a living fence and the birds love to seek shelter in them. Plus the flowers that cover the Scotch Broom in May are pretty; a brilliant yellow. That is about where their positive attributes end though. Scotch Broom is very invasive and considered a noxious weed here in Oregon. You can read more about it by following this link.

A close up of Scotch Broom in bloom in my back yard May 2008.

I decided it was time to take them out and next year I will plant some shrubs and other sorts of plants in their place that the birds will find even more attractive. Unfortunately this is not proving to be an easy decision thanks to how established they are along with our very hard and rocky soil. My 14 year old son volunteered to take them out with the pickaxe and I took him up on it. He feels he gets a good workout when he uses the pickaxe and actually likes to do it. (Ah to be young!)

A few days ago he took out four of them. Today he hacked away another four or five. While removing today’s victims he turned over a rather large rock and found what you see in the picture below.

It is quite ironic that he should find this shell of its former owner today as it was just yesterday I commented on Mrs. Greenhand’s blog concerning snakes. She had written a post explaining why snakes are actually good to stumble upon in one’s garden. I commented saying that I have yet to see any in my garden but I was sure they were somewhere out there. Well low and behold look what my son unearths today! What a coincidence.

 I do not know how I would handle stumbling upon the owner of that skin. It is nice to know that it is out there patrolling the garden but I think I am just fine with it remaining out of site. Although my boys might think otherwise!

The Blackberries are Coming! /?p=169 /?p=169#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2008 23:08:22 +0000 Cindy /?p=169

We have a blackberry bush in our backyard that we have managed to keep under control and it is really putting on some berries this year. It won’t be much longer and they will be ready to pick. I can’t wait for that! Last summer my boys would go out every morning and pick the berries that were ripe. One morning we were able to pick enough to make a large batch of jam. I don’t even worry about the birds eating the fruit. Our blackberry is so productive that there are plenty enough berries for us and the birds. And the birds do love our blackberry patch. They love to use it for shelter as well as a food source. Plus it is in a perfect location in the back part of the yard.

Upon close inspection of the blackberry I can really see how they are related to the rose family. Of course there are the thorny branches but then there are also the flowers of the blackberries. They so very much make me think of the flower of a rose. The blackberry flowers are actually quite pretty. Some will bloom pink while others will be white like the picture in the sidebar which was taken of our blackberry a few weeks ago.

It is amazing how prolific the blackberries are up here in the Pacific Northwest. Our blackberry patch is wild and we have to keep it under check or it will begin to encroach on the rest of the yard. Once a year we remove any runners that appear where we do not want them to be and this helps keep the blackberry under control. We also remove any dead canes as the blackberry will just grow over them creating this huge thorny fortress. On top of that we are mindful of any arching branches that eventually touch the ground as these too will root and start yet another plant.

The blackberries are everywhere out here. Sides of roads are blanketed in a thick tangled mess of them. I had never seen anything like it before moving up here. I knew blackberries were very prolific out here but I never could have imagined that they would be this prolific! It makes me think of Sleeping Beauty when the prince had to hack his way through all the thorny branches in order to reach the castle.

Despite having to really keep an eye on it I completely love having it in our yard. There is nothing better than eating a just picked, perfectly ripe blackberry that has been warmed by the summer sun.

Our First Tomato! /?p=164 /?p=164#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2008 22:37:44 +0000 Cindy /?p=164

Our first tomato is red today! It’s not a huge beefsteak or any kind of heirloom; those are still pretty small in the veggie garden right now but it is a tomato none the less. I have been watching this little plant that I have growing in a terra cotta pot for a few days now as I knew there was going to be one turning red soon.

This little guy is called Tumbling Tom and he is a small cherry tomato that does well in containers. I am amazed at how completely covered in tomatoes he is. Tom is seriously loaded down with perfect looking tomatoes. To me it is a rather odd looking little tomato plant as it is so stunted in growth but I guess that is what makes it so great for containers. He is supposed to cascade over the sides of his container and look great in hanging baskets because of this. However, mine is certainly not cascading. No matter since he is loaded with fruit.

The only dilemma though when it comes to just one tomato being ripe is…..who gets to eat it???

Lavender Uses in the Home /?p=160 /?p=160#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2008 04:27:24 +0000 Cindy /?p=160

Yesterday I posted about taking my kids to a beautiful lavender farm out in the Hood River Valley. Today I thought I would add to that post by including some really easy ways I use lavender through out my house. I love lavender and try to find as many ways to use it as I can. I hope everyone else enjoys some of these easy lavender ideas.

Lavender Linen Water

Lavender linen water is so simple to make I can’t believe I actually see it for sale. Save some money and make it for yourself and gifts for friends. Add several drops lavender essential oil to some distilled water. Pour into a glass bottle(s) and tie some ribbon and dried lavender flower spikes to it for a pretty presentation.

This water can be used in a steam iron or pour some into a spray bottle and lightly spray your linens and towels with it before folding and putting away. Or lightly spray your pillow and linens before settling in bed for the night. Sweet lavender dreams are sure to follow!

Lavender Sugar

Lavender sugar is just as easy to make as the linen water. (This can actually be done with numerous herbs such as lemon balm, scented geraniums, etc.) You simply layer sugar with lavender flower spikes, either fresh or dried, in a glass jar. Leave the sugar to infuse with lavender for a few weeks.

Another method is even easy than the one mentioned above but I have not tried this method so I can not say if the results are as good or not. For this method you place some dried lavender buds and sugar in a food processor or blender and mix until the lavender is finally ground.

Try the lavender sugar in iced tea or even better use in a sugar cookie recipe!

Herbes de Provence

This well known herb mix gets its unique flavor from the lavender in it. It’s really easy to mix together and is great to have in the winter for flavoring soups, sauces, and stews. Also, it makes a lovely gift from the garden if you happen to grow all the herbs yourself (or even if you don’t!). 

To make simply mix together equal parts dried rosemary, savory, thyme, and lavender.

So there you go, three fairly easy ways of incorporating one of the most well loved herbs into your home. Enjoy!

Died and Gone to Lavender Heaven /?p=141 /?p=141#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2008 02:06:14 +0000 Cindy /?p=141

Yesterday I took my three kids on a little trip that was a total feast for the senses. Not too far from us is this beautiful area by Mt. Hood called the Fruit Loop. It gets it name from all the fruit orchards that are along a few roads that form a sort of loop. Along the Fruit Loop is a farm named Lavender Valley. As I have mentioned here recently, July is the month for picking lavender here in the Pacific Northwest. All over there are lavender festivals going on. This week Lavender Valley hosted theirs.

During the festival they were offering u-pick lavender for three dollars a bunch. We had such a nice time strolling through all the rows upon rows of lavender and picking our own bundles to take home. It is so incredibly beautiful to see. There are the rows of lavender that are beautiful beyond words but then there is also the view of Mt. Hood that is breathtaking as well.

I have some fairly decent pictures to share from our visit. Some didn’t turn out quite as well as I would have liked. The wind was really blowing on top of having to chase my daughter down constantly so I am amazed I got some as good as I did!

Tomorrow I plan on sharing some ideas for ways to use lavender through out the house.

All the photos can be clicked on to view full size.

A sea of purple

Mt. Hood can be seen in the background

It was so hard to get a good shot of the bees visiting the lavender as the wind was blowing very strong.

This picture shows the lavender that has already been harvested. They distill the lavender into essential oil right there at the farm.

My eldest son took this picture of the gazebo in the sea of lavender.

One of the bundles we picked ourselves.

My son picking his lavender bundle

Another beautiful view

My Little Garden Helper /?p=131 /?p=131#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2008 02:11:27 +0000 Cindy /?p=131 I wanted to share these pictures of my daughter that I took today. I took her out to our deck after her nap (please excuse her hair- bad case of bed head!) and she immediately grabbed my watering wand and proceeded to “water” my containers. She went around the entire deck doing this. So cute! She was mimicking Mommy all the way.

70 Square Feet of Garlic /?p=126 /?p=126#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2008 21:19:59 +0000 Cindy /?p=126
Filaree FarmsI mentioned in my post yesterday on cover cropping that I am preparing a 14′x5′ bed for garlic this fall. I can not wait to get the garlic in the ground! (That is after I get over my excitement of improving the soil by cover cropping.) In my Southern California garden I grew garlic twice and it was the greatest thing harvesting it myself and feeding my family with it along with giving some away. And how good it tasted too! Friends raved about the unbelievable flavor it had.

The flavor of homegrown garlic can not even be compared to store bought. (As for anything else we grow ourselves, right?) After I grew some myself I never looked at store bought garlic the same again. I always look at it in the store and think do I have to buy this substandard poor excuse for garlic. But not next summer, next summer we will be digging up our own homegrown garlic again! And lots of it too as I ordered 2 pounds worth to be shipped out by the end of September. We are big garlic eaters in this house so hopefully this will produce enough to last us the year.

It has been several years since I have grown my own garlic and when we put in the new vegetable garden I knew I had to plant some again. It is not at all hard to grow. Rarely is it bugged by pests, in fact it actually deters them from roses and such. The trickiest part for me was trying to know when to harvest them. And even that is not too hard. I think if you can grow onions then you can grow garlic.

When I grew garlic several years ago I ordered the stock from a place in Washington that sells certified organic garlic. I could never have dreamed that there are so many types of garlic to grow! The choices made my head swirl. Those few years ago I ordered a Silverskin subvariety called Creole Red. Words can not describe just how yummy that garlic was and beautiful too. The cloves had gorgeous purple skins and were of a nice size. And the flavor, oh my the flavor. It could knock you on your butt raw. It was actually rather spicy raw. I have been having Creole Red dreams ever since growing it back in my former garden.

I ordered three types of garlic for this fall’s plantings and of course Creole Red is one of them; a full pound of it to be exact. I also ordered a half a pound of Nootka Rose which is a Siverskin along with Chesnok Red which is a Purple Stripe. I can’t wait to compare the taste of all three.

In case anyone is interested I ordered from Filaree Farms. This is my third time ordering from them and I have had excellent service every time. Their site and catalog is also chockfull of useful information pertaining to garlic so I would highly recommend checking it out. Please note that I am not affiliated with them in any way. I just simply think they are an excellent source for garlic. And if you too want to plant some garlic this fall, I suggest you order soon as supplies are already getting low. Lots of garlic lovers out there I guess!