Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Tis Tomato Season!

Every August, I take off for 1-2 weeks to help my uncle harvest.  Since I've been a wee little tyke, I've only missed one harvest.  I've been helping in the field since I was 13 and I can't imagine not going back and partaking in the harvest anytime soon.  Who amongst you would take vacation time to go back and work 12 hour days in dirt, dust, and itchy chaff willing?  Yes, the bug just won't ever let go.
My brother and I traded off driving this behemoth on the outskirts of Grangeville, Id.

However, a funny thing happened when I went on vacation - the prodigal summer came back home.  I think it only took two days of me being away for the good sunshine to hit.  At first, I was kinda upset (re: pissed off.)  Farmers in general tend to grind axes about the weather.  And, what better axe to grind, than to bemoan the summer without a day of 90+.  Of course, when that nice high pressure system decided to stick around for a month, I soon acquiesced, knowing that my garden was going to be L-O-V-I-N-' it! 

Amazing what some heat will do for them 'maters.  It's just been brilliant.  I've retrieved a large bowl like that pretty much every night for the past couple weeks.  After a disappointing 2009 season, and the record cold and rain from this spring/summer La Nina, this was a significant change for the better.  Even that week long coastal front passed and were back to the warm luxurious 80's.  How it warms the cockles of my heart!

I've gotten a good share of tomato varieties to ripen and here are few of my favorites:
Vintage Wine - Striped Brandywine, excellent tomato

Amana Orange

Azoychka - tasty Russian heirloom that is yellow with light red streaking

Black Krim - DELICIOUS!
Green Zebra
Radiator Charlie - beautiful fruit, grew it as an after-thought, but so glad I did

Virginia Sweets - very intrigued by this near 2lb-er

I'll have more pics later, but that's a pretty good sample.  I've dehydrated a number of them, as that is my favorite way to consume them (just an intense tangy treat to gnaw on - about a million times better than jerky.)  My wife made a huge batch of tomato sauce last weekend and we've obviously eaten a lot of them fresh as well.  With this warm weather, they will keep rolling in for at least another couple weeks, which is great.  I've got a couple varieties that I got planted late that I'm dying to see ripened (Red Brandywine and Marvel Stripe.)  Hopefully I'll have an update on those in a week or two. 

Until then, enjoy the summer!


Friday, August 5, 2011

Ah, Summer!

It's been nearly 2 months since my last post.  What can I say?  I've been working on my tan!  It's only because I'm German/Irish that it takes so long to acquire a decent tan.  But, alas, one has to put in the work for such beautifully bronzed skin.

I joke, of course.  I've been crazy (CRAZY!) busy.  It seems like a long time ago, but it rained A LOT this spring and early summer.  So much so that trying to do any yard work was futile and borderline masochistic.  Now that the rain has stopped and the sun has been shining, the whole yard went 'supersize' on me - especially the weeds.  It's a battle of attrition this year, as didn't get a jump on it in March like I normally can, so it's just trying to keep things under control as best as possible.  Hopefully next year will give us some rainless spring days to get some pruning done before July. 

Not to rain on the parade, but I read an article that conditions are ripe for a second La Nina this winter.  Of course, 'they' say that the second one isn't nearly as brutal as the first.  Then again, isn't that like saying the second dip in the recession isn't as bad as the first?  They are both pretty hard to swallow, no?  Anyway, I'm enjoying this fairly warm sunshine as much as possible as it may be a while before we see it again once the fall rainy season hits.

I still have plants out in front of Barbur Foods.  I was pleasantly surprised at how many tomatoes I sold in July.  I thought for sure that I would see not a single one moved, but they kept getting swept up.  They are quick ripening varieties (Gold Nugget Cherry, Sun Sugar Cherry, Stupice, Manitoba, & Legend), so they will produce ripe fruit before the nasty weather comes.  I'm happy that people are giving them a chance to get some tasty fruit that late in the season.  I still have a lot of basil as well.  That's really sold well the past couple months and my own basil plants in the garden are going bonkers too.  Hello Pesto!
Genovese, Red Rubin, Thai, Red Lettuce Leaf, & Serata Basil

Even with the record cold/wet spring, my tomatoes are doing great.  I've got tons of  fruit set and have even picked a few already.  This is in sharp contrast to last year.  It wasn't until this time when I saw the first tiny little tomato set.  Just deplorable, it was.  I'm very excited for all the tasty orbs coming my way this year.  It's gonna be beautiful!
Stupice and Black Krim - not bad for middle of July!

Peppers are largely a different in, they took forever to perk up.  The ones I planted in May have mostly been replaced and even the ones I planted in June are just so-so.  Only the ones I planted in July actually look great.  They were all to happy to show their displeasure of such a harsh spring and early summer.    Still, I've got a few plants (in pots, not surprisingly) that are doing great.  I've got a few Manzanos with fruit on them, and an Aji Amarillo that is just covered with fruit.  It won't be a banner year, but I'll get a good number of peppers to keep me (and my salsa) hot and happy.

In a sad bit of news, we lost Turbo, our Rhode Island Red that ate the chunk of metal.  Her hijinks eventually caused her downfall, as the sharp edges perforated her reproductive tract and she ended up not being able to lay eggs.  She ended up going toxic due to the rotting yolks that she wasn't able to pass.  A sad day for sure.

That of course, led to my wife and I getting some new recruits!  Baby chicks - how fun!

We went with a black sex link, an Ameracauna, and another Rhode Island Red.  Funny thing, though.  I think the dude at the store screwed up and we got a Welsummer instead of an Ameracauna.  I was looking forward to the blue eggs, but I guess today our choice is chocolate brown.

That's all for now.  It's been a fun year and I'm really (REALLY) happy to have the sun to play in the past month.  I'm excited for the tomatoes that will be coming my way in about a week.  Zucchini, cukes, beans, and tomatillos are right behind them.  It's taken a bit longer, but it'll be a good harvest.

Now about that corn I planted...I think the adage goes "Knee high by the 4th of August," right?  Fingers crossed...


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rip Van Winona

It seems it's been forever and a day since I've showed my face on these internets!  How long have I been sleeping?  Ha - that's a funny thought.  Sleep.  When I'm dead!  (This is also known as winter.)

I've signed up for a couple more Sundays at the Tigard Area Famer's Market.  Come on down and check us out.  The produce vendors are now there and you can get all the ingredients for a fresh meal.  Not to mention some plants for meals later on this summer!  Splendid idea if I don't say so myself.  Market opens at 9am and goes till 2pm.


While the temperatures are warming, we can't seem to get an extended period of sunny days.  Even so, the garden has been growing steadily.  I've got fruit setting on tomatoes (Black Krim & Stupice) and the peppers are beginning to bloom.  I'm amazed at how my grafted tomatoes are doing.  They are 1-2' farther along than the conventional plants.  I guess that actually works!  They are all blooming and a couple have set fruit already.  This is all excellent news.  Last year, I didn't get a tomato to set fruit until August 1st!  THAT SUCKED!

Looks to be a bumper crop of grapes this year.  Last year was a very poor harvest - only 2 bunches!  Lot's of blooms are dotting the new branches right now.  I'm excited to make my legendary grape jam this fall.  It's addictive (the jam, not the canning.)

Another thing I tried this year was to transplant carrots.  I'd heard all the warnings that they transplant poorly and they would die quickly, but I'm never one to listen to age, reason, and experience.  I've got to dig that hole myself.  I'm glad I did, because these carrots are the BEST carrots I've ever grown.  Enormous straight roots, strong chartreuse tops, and all neatly in a row.  It was a bit of extra work, but I started another flat of them to transplant this week.  If they are going to come out like that, I'll put in the extra 15 minutes to transplant each one individually.

Of course, not everything is going according the master plan.  The corn I planted 2 weeks ago still hasn't sprouted.  It's a supersweet variety and it needs 70 degree soil to germinate.  I thought after a couple 85 degree days, it would take off like a house on fire.  Sadly, that was just a tease and the soil is staying in the low to mid 60's for now.  The peppers I planted in the middle of May are looking tepid at best.  May need to replace them, but a few are showing signs of life.  I'm also not seeing a lot of fruit on the apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees.  The vicious cold spring played a big part in that.  That's okay, as it will likely be a nice harvest for them next year.

The best news, of course, is that we are expected to have excellent weather for the summer solstice.  There are few things that affect me more than to have crappy, rainy weather on the solstice.  It's the greatest day of the year, simply because it's the 'longest'.  I (heart) the sun and I long to enjoy it for as much as possible.  To have it covered up by clouds just pisses me off.  Like taking a new toy away from the birthday boy.  Temper tantrums ensue!

Alas, it's time to do some plant stuff.  Potting up basil and lettuce tonight.  Getting things ready for my cart in the morning at Barbur Foods, and prepping for Sunday's market in Tigard.  Good times!  Looks like we get sun tomorrow.  We'll see...

Cheers - take care everyone

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oh My Goodness, This Sunshine is Amazing!

And then I awoke from my long slumber.  Some day, 'they' say, the sun will show it's firey face once again.  Hopefully, before July this year.  It's like clockwork for me.  The last week of May is always the hardest time of the year.  We get teased some nice weather ,and then it seems the rain won't quit.  Alas, this is just how it is.


I've got a full weekend coming up.  I'm doing the Aloha Farmers Market on Saturday and the Tigard Area Farmers Market on Sunday.  Gonna be busy and awesome all at once.  Then, I've got the next two days off to work in the yard and spend time with my wife.  I'm looking forward to it!

If you are out and about this weekend, stop by a market and say hello.  Aloha Farmers Market is at the corner of 185th and TV Highway from 9am-3pm.  I'll be the only booth with plants...kind of like cornering the  concentrated frozen orange juice market.  Except with out the help of a stunning Jaime Lee Curtis, perhaps.  Tigard market takes plasce at the corner of 99W(Pacific Highway) and Hall Boulevard and runs from 9am-2pm.  The sun is actually scheduled to appear for a mid-day performance, but forecasters have been unwilling to confirm this report at this time.

And if that all doesn't work?  You can stop by Barbur World Foods and pick up some fine Winona Farms Plants there as well.  Or simply email me - - to set up a time to drop by and pick them up fresh from the 'farm'.

Take care everyone - enjoy the long weekend.  Hopefully you get to experience some sun.


Friday, May 20, 2011

So, How Did I Get Here?

Early this spring, I was a sellout.  A waffler.  Maybe a little bit afraid.  I recall a moment as vivid as any I've had since I got married.  I was sitting with my friend Dean in his awesome seed room and I thought to myself, "This is what I want."  Then he asked me, "What do you want?"  I wasn't ready to fully admit my own private admission.  I told him something about being unsure and trying to figure out how I would even do this with everything else I have going on currently.  Yet, I knew the answer.  I just kept it bottled up.

Out of the blue, it became absolutely necessary (in my mind) to give my 'hobby' a name.  I sifted thru various iterations before settling on Winona Farms.  Why it became so immediately necessary, I haven't a clue, but it just fanned the fire hotter.  I began looking at bulk supplies from nursery outlets.  Could I possible even go thru 800 pots this year?  That seemed ridiculous.  Ha!  I ended up ordering a second 800...and another 1500 after that.

As the months have rolled by, and we got to experience such a wonderful March and April of historical cold and dampness, that thought just rattled around growing louder.  The weather should have killed it.  The melting of my plants in the poly tunnel should have killed it.  Still, it just got stronger.  I even began to call local nurseries to see if they would be interested in some of the rarer peppers I grow.  No dice on the four I called...and one actually hung up on me.  I remained determined.

I had only planned to sell my plants to neighbors, friends, and the interesting community of Craigslist.  Then, on a wild hair, I emailed the folks at Tigard Area Famers Market.  They said they would love to have me.  I wrote about that experience last week, all the good and mostly bad (not bad, enlightening) that it was.  It  didn't matter, as I was consumed with making my space better. 

A few days ago, the Aloha Farmers Market responded to a Craigslist ad of mine and invited me to join them.  I'm really busy and have an obligation each Saturday morning and would have been defensible to decline the invite.  Of course, by now, you know that wasn't happening.  I'll re-arrange my schedule so I can join the market.

And, now this.  Tomorrow, I will have a stand up at Barbur World Foods.  After negotiating how we would price things and keep track of sales, we agreed to do business.  It's absolutely mind-blowing to me.  From that little private admission at Dean's in February to now having a stand at a store is simply unbelievable.  For whatever reason, this 'little' step legitimizes that little snowball of a thought.  I'm a true nurseryman.  A farmer.

I've spent a lot of late nights potting up plants, covering up seedlings with fabric, and designing shelter after shelter to protect my starts.  I do it because I love it.  There hasn't been once this year where I've grumbled about doing any of it.  Still, I had this sense that I was a madman laughing at the rain.  But not anymore.  Now that I'm a farmer...

Though I'm still not really sure how I got here, I'm certainly ecstatic to be here.   Perhaps you can see the Chessire grin out here in sw Porltandia...


A few of you have commented on my musings and I'm eternally thankful for your giving your time to do so.  This blog is another 'laughing at the rain' activity for me.  Well, at least until someone posts a comment anyway.  Then it makes it seem like I'm some world-class writer.  Don't worry, the feeling quickly goes away.

Please join me at the Tigard Area Farmers Market on Sunday May 22.  The following week I'll be at the Aloha Farmers Market on May 28, and back in Tigard for May 29 over Memorial Day Weekend.  If you want to buy some plants directly from me, just send me an email -

Thanks everyone - have yourselves a great weekend!

Monday, May 16, 2011

School is Now in Session

This past Sunday, I broke my Farmer's Market "innocence".  I'm now a grizzled vet of the 10' x 10' space of parking lot in hopes of selling my goods to consumers of the Tigard area.  That's probably an exaggeration.  I certainly had a lot to learn on the first day.  So much to take in and process; it was quite overwhelming. 

The day couldn't have been more idyllic, in that it rained the entire time the market was open.  Of course, it stopped once the market closed.  The first one couldn't have happened any other way, right?  Still, thru the rain and somewhat gusty wind, I made a few sales here and there and actually made my rent.  I was delighted to reach that, given weather and my limited (re: zilch) knowledge about how to set up a space at a market.

I showed up with two tables and 20 flats of plants.  Not much in the way of signs or advertisement to be had, as I wasn't even sure what I would do.  After seeing other vendors spaces, it became clear I need to highlight my specialties in a far more robust manner. 
1) I have a ton of pepper varieties, but I left some at home (mainly the sweet varieties).  Those, of course, were the ones that people asked about.  I have to remember that most people are more fond of sweet peppers than spicy ones...unlike me.
2) I realized after browsing that my prices were a bit high compared to other vendors.  I don't need to undercut anyone, just pull in line with the other folks.
3) My organization on the tables needs some work.  I need to put the valued product like basil, tomatoes, & peppers as the first thing that people see, not sunflowers and lettuce.
4) I need to cut way back on the flowers, lettuce, and non-basil herbs.  Even with the small sample size, most people wanted (or were at least curious about) tomatoes, peppers, and basil. 

In many ways, I was lucky to have my first day be so rainy.  While it was cold and miserable standing underneath my canopy, I essentially got a free day of school.  Instead of having a crush of people on a nice sunny day, I was able to walk around and observe a bit of how I could adapt my space to better suit potential customers.  I was also able to bend the ear of a couple vendors and get some advice on how to improve as well.  All in all, it was a fantastic day.

Then, I went home and potted up more plants.  The last of the tomatoes and peppers are now outside and getting hardened off to go into a warming garden near you.  Also, lots of basil now coming into maturity.  Sweet, Mammoth Sweet, Genovese, Italian Large Leaf, Serata, Red Lettuce Leaf, Red Rubin, Purple Ruffles, Cinnamon, Thai, Indian, Christmas, Clove, Holy Red & Green, African Tree, Lemon, and Lime basils are ready (or, are very close.)

It's kind of sad, actually.  Not much left in the basement these days.  I'll plant a few more flats of greens and some squash/cukes/melons, but this really is the wind-down period for planting stuff indoors.  One by one the lights are being turned off as they aren't needed anymore.  Only 15 flats in a possible 32 spaces remain.  That will continue to shrink this week as I move more basil and marigolds out. 

Here's hoping that the weather is a bit better this weekend.  I'm ready for a crush of people.  I would love to sell out of plants.  It sure beats throwing them into the compost bin.  If you are in the neighborhood and are having a hankering for some peppers, tomatoes, basil (and/or kettle korn), come on out to the market.  It's pretty easy to find in the parking lot of Young's Funeral Home.

Take care, everyone.  Hope your week has been going well.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is This Make-Up Weather?

After tormenting us for the better part of six months, has La Nina begun to subside?  A couple 70 degree days in a week is one helluva way to make up for stepping out on us in April.  I even planted a few tomatoes as a celebration of the wonderful change in temps.  Of course, that may be a bit premature, but I've got my plastic handy if the rains decide to set in again.

I want to thank everyone that came out to the sale on Sunday.  That was a great time and I was happy to meet a some new people.  I hope your plants become everything you hope for and more.  While I love starting plants, nothing will give me more joy or a bigger smile than someone who said that their tomato or pepper exceeded expectations.  Like a proud father, I'll be.

I do have one note of regret, however.  In my obsession to start as many plants as I have, I've over-run my capacities to protect them.  As such, I've built one greenhouse after another as way to keep them outside, yet somewhat sheltered from the elements.  In doing so, I've taken up space in my garden that I normally would be now planting things in.  It's a bit ironic, really.  I began growing starts as a way to make my garden more interesting and fun.  Now, they are a bit of an inhibitor of the original desire to do them in the first place.  C'est la vie, non?


So, I decided to tempt fate.  Some time ago, I put up a post detailing my amazing luck with the Early Jalapeno's germinating at 100%.  I couldn't just stop there, now, could I?  Hell no!  Like a derelict gambler, I had to put it all on red.

In my last wave of peppers I started, I planted twelve more EJ seeds.  Amazingly, they all came up.   Well, except for one.  I waited a few extra days longer to see if I would get it to pop from the soil, even a sickly/weak one would qualify for 100% germination.  Alas, it was not to be.  I ended the year 43 out 44 - good for 98%.  Great, but not perfection.  Sigh.

It does look like the rain is coming back for the weekend which is a shame.  After taking in the warmth today and watching all of Portlandia come out of the cave to jog, walk, bike, bbq, and generally rollick in the streets, it's tough to go back to the unpleasantness from before (I'll just refer to it as the month that shall not be named.)  Yet, this little warm patch sure gives hope.  Refreshing hope.

Take care everyone - here's to the sunny days and warming soils.  Please email me if you want something tomato-y or pepper-y or lettuce-y or basil-y to stick in those warming soils -


Friday, April 29, 2011

Plant Sale - Sunday!

May Day!  May Day!  Pleasant weather up ahead!  Abort Operation:Hibernate!  Dig out the sundresses, wipe clean the sunglasses, and find that long-lost tube of sunscreen.  It's gonna be a peach of a Sunday!  Get thee to Winona Farms and purchase some fine pepper and tomato plants (and/or herbs, onions, lettuce, etc.)  Sale begins at 11am and will go until 2pm on Sunday May 1st.  Location is 5900 block of SW Taylors Ferry.  Please email me for specific address -  Feel free to peruse the craigslist ad for an extended list of plants, or simply click the 'Plants For Sale' button right above this post.


Miss pdxlisa at Backyard Farm was kind enough to invite me to their plant exchange last weekend (also known as the 70 degree day that spring quickly came and just as quickly left on) and I got to meet some new people and see some new gardening ideas.  I'm always impressed with people and their creativity to do the most with minimum space.  I've got a 1/2 acre to play with, so space isn't an issue (the large trees are another story.)  Things like devising the front yard into an edible landscape are concepts I've heard of and even thought about, but haven't spent much time actually seeing it applied.  It can be such a liberating experience when you see new possibilities in places where it seemed composed and stagnant.  I'm not about to do a whole yard make-over, but a 4'x4' bed this summer seems doable.  It doesn't have to be all roses...  Now, if I could just carve out some more time in the day.  About 24 hours should suffice.


Had my first big sale this week.  Earlier in the winter, a friend of mine got to talking about gardens and specifically peppers.  He was fed up with the past couple years, as the weather and deer had really eaten is green thumb down to a nub.  His demeanor was most certainly apathetic and was leaning against starting a garden this year. 

However, a funny thing happened to him.  He got infected by a familiar bug.  Optimism.  Hope.  That boundless energy that anything is possible.  I like to think I played a small part in it, as I had been planning 2011 as soon as the rains came pouring down in September of 2010.  My enthusiasm was non-stop and the more we talked, the more my friend got excited about the spring.  Up until this year, he left the varieties of peppers he planted to whatever the garden store had ordered from the nursery.  This year was going to be different.  We began pouring over catalogs and pepper varieties he wanted to try.  Instead of being left to the standard varieties that are at every nursery, he would choose exactly what he wanted to grow.

We made a deal - any seeds he bought, I would grow them and he would get as many plants as he wanted from the packet.  He was a driver in the increase in pepper varieties for me this year.  Specifically, the anchos, Valencia, Chichen Itza, Inferno Hybrid, Hungarian Hot Wax, Hot Banana, and Caloro varieties would not have been grown if not for his insistence.  Given that I'm a serial seed buyer, I wholly endorsed this because it meant I was getting free seeds and more fun stuff to grow!

Wednesday, I delivered the order to him.  All told, it was 63 plants, which is my biggest order to date.  It was a very happy day for both of us.  In addition, it freed up some space in my poly tunnel for the last wave of tomatoes I've got coming out of the seed room.  Perfect timing.


I had hoped to be updating this blog a bit more frequently.  Unfortunately, I've been busy potting up plants and rearranging flats and building new greenhouses and poly tunnels to house them all.  I thought that I would sell a few more plants by now, but the weather being what it was, no one was interested in doing anything in the garden, cool or warm season planting.  As such, it's been an ongoing struggle to keep a bunch of plates spinning with more being added each week.  I've had some failures, but so far, I've done pretty well.  I'm always learning and always taking notes on what I'll try differently next year.  All in all, it's been a pretty enjoyable experience.  Not even 5" of April rain can dampen that.

Enjoy the sun people of Portlandia - it is well deserved after enduring such a wet month.  Please drop by on Sunday, even if it's to say hello.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Record Portland Heat Wave

Well, it's a record for 2011, anyway.  Today was absolutely beautiful.  Sunny, kinda warm, and most importantly - no rain!  Tomorrow looks to be even better.  What a lovely way to spend a Saturday - basking in sun.


I often find myself in either garden stores or home improvement stores.  I'm either buying soil or buying stuff to spare my plants from the rain and frost.  I ought to buy stock, as I'm probably responsible for their gains this spring. 

This week, I had made a plan to build a PVC greenhouse frame.  As I was inspecting plastic, I began inadvertently jostling 10' pipe lengths with a guy that was working on a similar project.  As we did a our little dance of grabbing a pole without smacking the other, we started talking about - what else - the weather. 

It turns out he volunteers at an organic farm that supplies fresh produce for Portland-area restaurants.  He said that they are at 50% production this year, compared to normal levels.  On top of that, he had kept weather records in garden logs for the past 30 years and he said that 2011 is the wettest and coldest he has recorded.  In addition to that, my nursery friend is 50% off from normal sales as well. 

Granted, it's somewhat anecdotel evidence without seeing the actual numbers, but I had no reason to distrust either person.  They seem very level-headed and not for much hyperbole.  Whether or not it has been the coldest and/or wettest, I think we can all agree that it's been a miserable spring for gardening. 

Yet, all that can go away with a couple of nice days of sunshine.  Even if the rain looks like it will return next week, that grand day of 70 degree sun is gonna be great.

So...what are you going to do with your Klondike bar of a day?  How about shopping for plants?  I hear Winona Farms has a great selection going on right now.  Lot's of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, herbs, onions, greens, and more.  Besides, you can see what all my investments in Lowes and Home Depot has been good for - all 5 of my greenhouse-like structures.  It's like a science experiment in the back yard.  Seeing which structure does the best and doesn't succumb to the weather.  Good Fun!

If you are feeling a plant shopping spree coming on, I'm located on the 5900 block of Taylors Ferry.  Take peek at the Craigslist ads for the peppers and tomatoes.  Email me if you are interested in plants -


Take care, people.  Enjoy the sun.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

We Regret to Inform You...

...but your plants have died because of your stupidity and laziness.  Okay, I'm probably being a bit harsh on myself.  However, the past week was full of lessons for me and when I lose plants due to my own doing, it's a bit frustrating. 

It all started last Friday with that wonderful sunny day.  I talked about how some plants got absolutely scorched in my mini-poly tunnels.  That was lesson #1.  Don't leave mini-poly tunnels closed in the sun unless you are actually trying to slow cook them.  Even then, there are more efficient ways to do this (not to mention, more enjoyable.)  Still, this one was completely unforeseen and actually caused very little damage.

The next lesson came Sunday night/Monday morning when Jack Frost paid a visit to the house.  When I looked at the thermometer as I headed for bed, it said 35.1 degrees.  A thought crossed my mind that I should put some milk jugs with hot water in them in the poly tunnels as warmth insurance to keep them above freezing thru the night.  Alas, that thought died on the vine, not unlike a good number of tomato plants in the early morning.  I was kicking myself ferociously for that bit laziness.  Lesson #2 - if you think something would be a good idea, especially to keep plants alive, invest the 5-10 minutes to do so. 

Finally, my favorite lesson of the week.  As a fledgling grower, I'm often seeking bags of potting soil.  My default soil is Black Gold Natural and Organic, but I'm always looking for other brands that work too.  On Sunday, I was at a local garden store and was attempting to buy myself a couple bags of soil.  However, that gal at the counter immediately was talking me out of it.  "Everyone's using Bumper Crop these days.  I can't seem to sell a bag of Black Gold."  Really?  With a hard sell like that?  Astonishing! 

Anyway, the whole conversation, while cordial, seemed off to me.  The lady was quite intent on selling me a bag of Bumper Crop (and packages of peas that didn't fit on the seed rack), but is that any different from any other sales clerk?  Still, my instincts were telling me strange things were afoot at the 7-11. 

I bought the bag just the same even though I didn't have that 'sense of comfort' that we consumers so desire.  I thought it would be an opportunity to try out a new product.  It was, after all, highly recommended according to my new best friend, the sales clerk.

As I take it down to the basement cave where I start all my plants, one thing that strikes me is how pungent this bag of soil is.  Sweet, pungent, and quite ripe.  Somewhere in the back of my head, alarm bells are going off like sirens in the Battle of England.  I chose to hit 'snooze' and began to pot up some basil using this new soil. 

Right off the bat, I was skeptical.  There was so much wood product in it that I figured for sure it was going to be horrible for the plants.  I've found that the amount of wood product compost is in a potting soil is directly proportional to how toxic it is for plants.  This stuff certainly would be death to all things green.

I finished up for the night and began recording what I had done.  As I was doing so, the smell from the Bumper Crop was just suffocating.  I grew up on a pig farm in Idaho.  My office had turned into one of the pig buildings I hated to be inside of.  It !#$(!^% reeked!  Bad memories to be certain.

The next day, the smell was even worse.  Un-!#$!%-believably putrid.  I took a look at the basil starts that I had potted with the Bumper Crop and immediately knew what happened.

Now, that is a result!  That's Thai basil with Bumper Crop on the left and Black Gold on the right.  Perhaps some of you know what Bumper Crop is.  I now know that it is a soil amendment/conditioner and is supposed to be used in sparse amounts.  Not as a pure potting soil and never again inside the house.  My poor basil starts...I can just hear their roots melting away in that hot mix of manure.  And this could have been avoided if I would have taken the time to actually pay attention to those warning signs and read the damn label.

Now, I don't think the lovely sales lady had any malicious intent, but what the hell was she thinking?  I was asking for a bag of potting soil and she's selling me on a soil conditioner that will kill anything I pot up in it.  Lesson # 3 - if something seems off, it probably is and it's in my interest to either back away from the item (would you like a pack of our featured peas?) or investigate further (take my head out of the sand).  Even if it means taking the 2 minutes to read the damn label.  Have I said that already?

Ah, farming.  Ain't it the life?

Here's to some weekend sun!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Scorching Sun!

Even though it barely broke 60 today, it was absolutely beautiful.  The kind of day that gives a Portlander hope that something other than wind, rain, hail, and snow can be bestowed upon us.  Rumour has it that the next one comes sometime in July.  I can't wait!

While the sunshine was heavenly, it didn't come without some unforseen consequences on my plants.  After barely staying above freezing  the past couple nights (32.3 at 6 this morning), my starts got the other end of the spectrum in short order.  I built a temporary 'greenhouse' using a 4'x8' piece of plywood, pvc hoops stretched over top, and plastic cover.  Basically, a miniature polytunnel.  It was cheap ($20) and easy (constructed in about 2 hours) and had thus far served it's purpose wonderfully. 

My plants had been very happy underneath the plastic, as they kept out of the rain and most of the wind (I only have remay at the ends of the tunnel to keep air flow in tact.)  That is, until we got a full sunny day.  That polytunnel must have heated up like those old Apollo re-entry capsules.  About 20 plants got fried - all in one spot, curiously.  The plastic must have been stretched so that it magnified the sun in that spot.

At first, I thought it was a partial freeze out, but it didn't make sense that that would happen in the middle of all the plants.  Then I saw the 'high' temperature for my other greenhouse.  94 degrees!  Yikes!  That's steamy, but luckily it had the benefit of a fan to keep the air moving briskly.  The polytunnel had no such instrument to move the air, except for any wind that might blow.  In addition, I placed the polytunnel in the spot of the garden that gets the most sun.  Every other day this year, that was ideal to catch the fleeting 10-15 minute sun-breaks.  Not so much today.  It was a pressure cooker. 

I got home pretty late, so I didn't have time to check out exactly how many plants burned up or even which ones.  I just hope I didn't wipe out a full variety.  That would suck.

Anyway, just another thing to learn along the way.  I never had thought that I could utter the phrase that we got 'too' much sun...unless its the final test to get my official 'Grumpy Old Farmer' card.  I guess it shows that you just never know.

Despite those burned up plants, I've still have plenty available.  Here are the various Craigslist ads.
Greens, herbs, etc
Tomatoes & peppers -
Grafted tomatoes -

Cheers to a beautiful day - hope the weekend is good for y'all.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Indesctructable Chicken

A few weeks ago, I posted about our Rhode Island Red swallowing a chunk of metal and caused her some, well, gastro-intestinal discomfort.  Here is what the x-ray looked like back then.  Take a look near the bottom of the image and that bright triangular shape.  Like a knife, it was.

And, 18 days later, this is what it looks like.

Hardly recognizable.  It's begun to corrode and break down and in the near future will be passed thru her system.  They can be quite a resilient bird - as long as a hawk isn't involved.

Tonight is her first night back in the coop with the other girls.  They've given her a cold shoulder, as chickens are wont to do.  But she's much happier out there than inside.  She didn't like her cage, so this is where I found here after her escape...on a silver platter.

Cheers to healthy chickens.  Now, may she lay a golden egg to pay for the vet bills!  Kidding (kind of.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Plant Starts for Sale!

I had hoped that the banner at the top would be my access to advertising what starts I have available.  Alas, Blogger had a disenting opinion on how I should handle that.  It decreed that thou plants shall be posted in a post!  Without further ado - post haste!

Starts Currently For Sale
(upd 3-26)

3 1/2" pots
Grafted Tomatoes ($4.00) – Cream Sausage, Sunsets Red Horizon, Pittman Plum, Yellow Trifele, Black Cherry, San Marzano Redorta, Amish Gold, Cour di Bue, Persimmon, Azoychka

Standard Tomatoes ($2.00) - Amana Orange, Persimmon, Azoychka, Black Cherry, Stupice, Cour di Bue, Legend, Japanese Black Trifele, Ildi, Gary Ibsen Gold, San Marzano, Amish Gold, Rosalita, Cluj

Hot Peppers ($2.00 unless otherwise indicated)- Bhut Jolokia($4.00), Giant Bhut - Ghost Pepper ($4.00), Jamaican Hot Chocolate Habanero, Spicy Mustard Habanero, Inferno Hybrid, Yellow/Orange Manzano, Aji Amarillo, Alma Paprika, Ancho-San Luis, Kung Pao

Sweet Peppers ($2.00) Red Beauty(red bell), Queen (yellow bell), Flexum (specialty sweet pepper)

Catnip ($1.50)

2 1/2" pots -
Cilantro ($1.00)
Onions ($1.00) (between 18-30 onion starts per pot) Walla Walla, Yellow of Parma, Pacific Pearl, Red Globe, Red Bull, Red of Florence

Black Cherry, Early Wonder, Cour di Bue, Sunsets Red Horizon, Black Krim, Stupice, Manitoba, Cream Sausage

Artichokes($1.50) – Imperial Star
Peppers($1.50) – Orange Manzano

Gallon pots
Tomatoes ($3.00) Homer Fike’s Yellow Oxheart

4-Packs ($1.50 each)
Brassicas - Roodnerf Brussel Sprouts, Charmant Cabbage, Golden Acre Cabbage, Early Snowball Cauliflower, Green Calabrese Broccoli
Swiss Chard - Bright Lights
Romaine - Jericho, Outredgeous, Parris Island, Red Deer Tongue

Leaf Lettuce - Mixed Heirloom blend
Celery - Utah 52-70

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Braving the Unknown (to me)

Well, I broke down.  I'm now a Facebook member.  You can find me at Winona Farms Plants.  After years of resistance, I caved, but only in pursuit of selling plants.  I'm not sure how facebook will help me do that, as I'm not really trying to find my plants a quick hook-up or their long-lost classmates, but I'm sure the Social Network will eventually show me the light.

I'm happy to report that the greenhouse modifications have improved the climate inside quite profoundly.  By digging out some dirt so that it wasn't on blocks - thereby eliminating the cold under-draft - has brought the temperature up 7-8 degrees above the outside temp.  This is a huge boost because it has dipped down into the mid 30's a few times the past week.  Yet, the greenhouse hasn't gotten below 43 all week - my tomatoes and peppers are loving that extra bit of protection.  Combined with a small fan I always have on, the plants are quite happy in the humid environment (between 75-95% all the time.)

There are still a few gaps on the bottom I'll fill in with some dirt this weekend.  That may add another degree or two.  Also, I have the cords for the lights and the fan going in thru the door, which leaves a slight gap at that corner that cool air can come in.  I think I can re-route those undeneath the frame and improve the overnight temperature even more. 

All in all, I'm quite please with how the structure has performed.  For just randomly trying something that I wasn't sure would work, it's been a blessing.  Last year, I was constantly bringing tray upon tray of starts up the stairs in the morning and then back down at night.  Having a protected place to keep them outside makes my knees and feet so much happier.  I just need two more of them. 

Why two more?  Have I told you that I'm a serial seed buyer?  Yes?  Well, I plant a lot of seeds as well.  And now - LOTS OF PLANTS!  I'm updating the current plants at top.  These are all hardened off and they are ready to find purchase in some good gardening soil.  Won't you give them a home?  Email me if you are interested!

Oh, and pay a visit to my facebook page...leave a funny comment on my wall, as the kids are wont to do.  If you make me LOL, I'll give you a free grafted tomato!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Do You Feel Lucky?

As I've stated in the past, I'm serial seed buyer.  I need a good 12-step program just to walk past a seed rack without picking out a few packages.  I think getting something to sprout for me (you sprouted for me!?  Lowly ol' me!?) is what a gambler must feel like when he (or she?) gets on a roll. 

A few weeks ago, I began my mass pepper plantings.  Normally, I seed between 12-18 seeds per variety.  I hope for (and am getting) about 75% germination, which gives me 9-15 plants with which to plant and/or sell.  One of the varieties I seeded was Early Jalapeno.  It's basic, but beloved by many.  I thought I would start a few more than normal, and I put 29 seeds into a flat. 

I should also note that I'm a stats freak.  I love Excel, and I've designed a highly nuanced spreadsheet that tracks my germination rates of each pepper by each day for the first 3 weeks.  I know that in my current setup, I cross the 50% germination threshold on day 9 from seeding. 

For the Early Jalapenos on Day 9, I was already at 91%!  It's named Early Jalapeno for a reason; still, that 27 of the 29 had already sprouted was far above expectations.  Having destroyed the average already, the only question would be:  Will it get to 100% germination?

I didn't have to wait long, as it was just the next day - Day 10 - where I got to the vaunted 100%.  I did have to count them a couple times just to make sure - that's a lot of seedlings in a 2" x 3" space.  This was confirmed when I 'celled' them over the weekend.

Seven 4-packs and one I put into a 2" pot makes 29. I want to see if I can get 50 out of 50 to germinate. 

Anyone got the number to planters anonymous?

Enjoy the sun, folks!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Break!

Those were the days...well, actually, I never did the prototypical college spring break vacation.  I usually went back home to visit the family.  They are nice and all, but something tells me I missed a few things at Lake Havasu or Fort Lauderdale or whatever the new hotspot is these days.  I suppose I'll get over it eventually.  In fact, a wee bit of sun would make things quite merry here in the rose city. 

My 'greenhouse' is slowly coming to completion.  I've hung some rope lights to generate heat and plants have been out there for the past week.  There are some design flaws, but that is to be expected when I was just throwing things at the wall.  Here is what it looks right now.

It's sitting up on blocks, which allows quite a draft to venture in from the bottom.  I was hoping it would stay a bit warmer inside, but right now, it's only 3-4 degrees above the outside temperature.  I think if I were to dig down so that it rests on the ground would help retain the heat.  That's my project for this weekend.  Well, that and potting up peppers and tomatoes.  Lots and lots of them jumping right out of the flats.

I still have some veggie starts for sale.  Red & green romaine, swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cilantro, catnip, onions (many types), and a few tomatoes.  Let me know what you are interested in and I'll hold them for you.

It's been a long week, as we've been nursing one of our chickens back from the brink.  She, somehow, swallowed a pointy triangular piece of metal at some point in the past couple weeks.  It left a pretty good mark going down into her gizzard, lacerating the esophegeal tube and puncturing the walls of the stomach.  The x-ray is something to behold.  We are trying to get a copy of it.  It's freaky looking.  At any rate, she's been in and out of the avian doctor's office the past week.  It does appear that she has turned a corner and is going to make it. 

After loosing another bird to a hawk a few weeks ago, we are having some bad chicken luck as of late.  I suppose that some chicken owners would probably say that's the price of admission.  However, these are our first birds.  They are more pets than anything else and we are attached to them - rightly or wrongly.  I suppose the next round of chickens we'll get, we'll have a more 'relaxed' attachment to them.  But not the first ones...those are first loves.

Time to get some sleep - hope your weekends are a splendid one.  And if you do find yourself in Lake Havasu, try not to laugh too maniacally when you think about all the poor saps trying to stay dry here in Portlandia.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Tired Eyes!

It's been quite a weekend.  I am nearly finished building my little greenhouse/cold frame for my plants.  The rain held off for a couple hours on Sunday so I grabbed it while the getting was good.  I'm excited to be using that instead of a porting plants up and down the stairs continuously.  I'll post a picture of it in the next day or two. 

We had a chicken get sick over the weekend as well.  As they are more pets than farm animals, she was immediately brought to the avian doctor.  Though my dad laughs at all the money we put into those birds, they did give my wife and I a great deal of enjoyment.  You can't put a price on that, but I suspect he understands that as well.

I got to spend the early part of Sunday with Dean Simpson, the man behind Wildcat Mountain farms.  He's been incredibly generous with his knowledge and expertise and has done nothing but to encourage this obsession of mine.  His operation up near Sandy leaves me drooling.  An enormous seed room, hot house, poly tunnel, and a covered nursery all combine for a rigorous start of a seedlings life.  Of course, it didn't happen overnight, so perhaps in 10-15 years, I'll have something like that as well.  I only hope that the mountain of knowledge Dean possesses comes with it.  If you want to check out his plants, you can find them at Peoples Coop (3029 SE 21st Ave) or the Urban Farm Store (2100 SE Belmont).  He's has a great selection and has outstanding stock.

I've still got some veggie starts available.  Feel free to contact me for anything you see at the top of the page -

It's time to wrap this weekend up.  Let's do this FEZ style - I bid you GOOD DAY! 


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Grafting Tomatoes

After a few rounds of practice, I think I've gotten the hang of tomato grafting.  I'm lucky in that they are remarkable resilient plants and no matter what amount of tomato blood I spill, they seem to battle back to become stronger.
Cour Di Bue Single Graft
Cour di Bue/Yellow Brandywine Double Graft
These poor plants couldn't have looked worse.  I thought for sure that the two double grafts I did would fail, and the single grafts weren't much better.  These pictures are about 2 weeks old, and they're hardly recognizable to what they look like now.

It's amazing, really, to see the improvement.  All that growth happened over the past 7 days, as the previous 7 were spent inside a healing chamber as the graft began to take hold. They are quite the amazing plant.

So, now that I'm one small step above a greenhorn tomato grafter, what varieties would you want to see on a single plant?  Here are a couple of my initial thoughts on the varieties I will be growing this year.
First off, the obvious ones:
1) Yellow Trifele/Japanese Black Trifele
2) Amish Gold/San Marzano Redorta
3) Yellow Brandywine/Vintage(striped brandywine)
4) Ildi/Black Cherry/Rosalita/Cluj (various cherry combos)

But, what about the most shocking pairs?
1) Black Krim/Homer Fikes Oxheart
2) Yellow Brandy/Black Cherry
3) Marvel/Cream Sausage

What do you guys think?  How crazy can you get?  What combos make your mouth water?


Friday, March 4, 2011

3-4 Craigslist Ad

First ad of the year!

Veggie Starts For Sale

In other news, it was a busy day for me.  Potted up all my habanero-type peppers (Bhut, Ghost, Jamaican Hot Chocoloate, Spicy Mustard, Aji Amarillo) into rose pots.  Also involved were some Orange and Yellow Manzano peppers and a few tomatoes.  Good times!

So what is the weather going to do this weekend?  I'm hanging some netting for our chickens to free-range under.  It would be really nice to have a dry spell to do that in.  We'll see.

Take care - enjoy the weekend.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

More New Stuff!

I put together some PDF documents (on top, to the right) of things I'm currently growing or will have in stock shortly.  Hopefully the print isn't too small to read.  Perhaps with a purchase of 10 plants, I will give away a free magnifying glass...for next years ordering ease!

Forty-four varieties of chili peppers, fourteen varieties of sweet peppers, thirty-four varieties of tomatoes, and eleven types of basil will keep me plenty busy this spring and summer.  Perhaps one or more varieties will spark your interest as well.  Although my focus is tomatoes and peppers, don't forget the onions, greens, and other miscellaneous items like eggplants, tomatillos, and sweet huckleberries in the accompanying lists.  All kinds of fun stuff to be had.

You will also see an 'Order Sheet' as well.  I'm a bit ahead of myself, as I don't have the capability to do online orders.  Not yet, anyway.  However, you may find it handy to print out and mark down which varieties that interest you and then email me your list.  I'm happy to put plants on reserve.

Pricing is pretty simple.  $2 for each plant for the first 10 plants.  Everything after is $1.50 each.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc, all come as one plant.  I do have 4-packs of lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc that I'm treating as 'one plant'.  $2 for the 4-pack for the first 10, $1.50 for each on after.

There might be some variance on that for special items, like onion bunches, but this will be the general pricing guide.  Feel free to email me with any questions (

I'll post pictures on a picasa site shortly of examples of what the plants look like.

One last thing, I'll create a banner at the top of the blog that states what I currently have in stock.  My goal is to keep that as current as possible, perhaps even with specific varieties available.

Thanks for coming by.  Hope to see you in person sometime this spring!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Links to the Starboard

I'm slowly working this website into shape.  Something akin to The Biggest Loser...except backwards.  They are trying to shed the weight, I'm looking to pack as much into this virtual space as possible.  It may be a muffin-top, but at least it will be organic.

I've put together a couple lists to your right.  The first of which is the seed companies that I've ordered from (or bought in a store.)  Some I use much more frequently than others.  For instance, most of my tomato seeds came from, and most of my pepper seeds came from Trade Winds Fruits.  I also like Territorial quite a bit, since they specialize in our maritime climate.  Johnny's Select Seeds was a recent find, and I've come to like them quite a bit.  They are the ones that sold me the rootsock seeds and clips for grafting tomatoes.  The rest of the them fill in needs here and there - which really means, that I'm a serial buyer of seeds and it takes minor miracle to walk by a seed rack and not pick out a couple packets of potential goodies.

The other list is a bunch of links I find myself using frequently.  Guides, databases, and helpful knowledge about gardening in general.  I'll continue to update these lists as my late-night googling will surely turnup some other good pieces of info that I want to pass on.

Until next time - be one with the rain...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

'Tis the season of rain, hope y'all are enjoying it from the comfort of your house (and/or cubicle.)  While it is easy to sag with the weather's gloom, it's also countered by the facts that the days are getting longer and the ground warmer.  All good signs that gardening season is dead-ahead!

My name is Zach, and I'm a serial planter.  A year ago, I bought a bunch of tomato and pepper seeds to grow in my garden.  As I love to grow things, I planted way too much and, on a lark, decided to sell some on Craigslist.  That endeavour went much better than I ever thought possible and have amped my efforts and seed varieties for 2011.  I aim for heirlooms and uncommon varieties first and foremost.  I figure if you want a 'Beefsteak', 'Sun Gold', or 'Better Boy' tomato, you can easily buy one at any garden store.  I'm after varieties like Homer Fike's Oxheart, Amish Gold, Yellow Trifele, Vintage Wine, Cour di Bue, Hawaiian Pineapple, and many other types of uncommon tomatoes.  For peppers, Manzano, Bhut Jolokia, Purple Jalapeno, Yellow Hinkelhatz, Tobago, Aji Lemon, White Habanero, and Peter Peppers are more my style.  I'll post the full list later this week, as these are just a sampling.

This blog is meant both as a catalyst to sell my extras, as well as to offer some insight to anyone else that is interested in gardening in general.  This is by no means to say that I'm the most knowledgeable lad on the planet - far from.  However, I've acquired a bit of knowledge over my brief lifetime and I want to share some results that I've found.  Knowledge is always a work in progress, and hopefully this blog will push that quest forward.

In addition to gardening, you might find a post about random pop-culture events or some other whimsical item that tumbled thru my mind.  My hope is to keep it entertaining and a fun place to visit.

Some upcoming topics to look for - tomato and pepper varieties, seed starting mediums, seed starting techniques, and grafting tomatoes.  Again, these will be more about what I've learned than being an 'authority' on the subject.

Thanks for dropping by and I look forward to having you back!