Saturday, September 30, 2006

Not much lawn here. Time off from blog.


"State of the yard" and house, as of today. There is more lawn than can be seen in the photo, although it is gradually heading into the "delawnification" category.

I'll be off from the blog for a week. Hopefully there will be a bunch of ripe figs next week. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 29, 2006

Man's Best Friends

Charlie Posted by Picasa

Northpole Apple - ready to pick

This "NorthPole" is a columnar apple with what is called a "MacIntosh" flavor. It was developed originally from a MacIntosh parent with a lot of selective breeding. Mostly, it grows straight-up with a few short branches that I've been pruning back even shorter to maintain the cordon structure.

Last year the apples did not seem very tasty - bland and grainy. For some reason, this year they are crisp and really do have an "apple' flavor, and worth the effort.

Raintree Nursery lists this as an early october ripening apple - so it's right on time.

This tree has a small "garden footprint' and is happy in the rose bed (which also contains the miniature peaches, a current, and quite a few other 'non-rose' plants). Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blog therapy. 880 visits in 2 months. Bike stats / vitals

This blog was started late July 2006. So far, 880 visits (Im not sure how this works - the same site also states 990 in a different area). Click on image for more detailed view. It's like having friends and family visiting, which is fun.

In a stressful world, thinking about the things that I write about calms me down, makes me feel like I'm sharing something important, and focuses my mind.

Bike this week: 60 miles of commute to/from work; plus 15 miles on Sunday = 75 miles. BP today 131/84 HR 74. Weight no change in a month, still about 207#. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Testing the limits - Palms in Pacific Northwest

This beautiful palm is about a mile from our house. Only a couple of varieties of palm will survive here; this is a Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei). We have a smaller specimen of the same species - so far it's survived 4 winters, including 2 ice storms and a couple of snow storms.

If the world really is getting warmer, maybe we should be experimenting more with plants that need warmer and probably drier conditions. At any rate, it's fun finding out what will grow and testing the limit. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Puttering. Garlic for next year.

Garlic is fun because it is planted in the fall, grows in late fall, becomes somewhat dormant during the winter then resumes growth in Spring for an early Summer harvest. Since we average a couple of cloves daily in the kitchen, we use all of the garlic that this small garden nproduces. It is easily planted among roses and perennials as well, and is reputed to be a good companion plant, repelling insects (I dont know if that is really true.)

This year I planted saved cloves from the last harvest of "German Red" garlic, which produced large clove bulbs of fairly strong tasting garlic. The wrappers of this variety have purplish-red stripes, adn the variety is said to have been brought to the US by German immigrants several generations ago. This is the '3rd generation' of this garlic in my garden. As I have read, each year I save the largest bulbs and plant the largest cloves from those bulbs. They do seem to be adapting to this yard, and this year's crop had the largest bulbs so far.

I also bouught a couple of bulbs of Inchelium Red garlic, which Rodale Institute rated as the best tasting. I wonder if these were mislabeled in the bins, however - they didn't look red and the cloves were not as big as photos on the internet. Still, they would be an interesting variety to try, since they have a good story (originating from Washington State tribal reservation gardens) and a good reputation.

I did not replant the garlic that I had grown from grocery store left-overs. These also turned out great, with larger bulbs than I had bought originally. However, since they are easily purchased, I wanted something 'more special' in the yard. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 22, 2006

"Vancouver" found variety of fig. Main Crop. Yum.

The net is there to discourage feathered and furry friends. These are big juicy figs. AFter a month of wondering, they are starting to ripen.
These are very juicy and sweet. Worth the wait and effort. Looks like there will be a nice crop this year. So far only one fig has split from the rains. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

An hour at Portland Nursery


This trip resulted in the impulse buy on the previous page, and some of the sedums. Not a bad time to find a few perrenials - they are grown to a nice size, and on sale. This is a good tree and shrub planting time too. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Anigozanthos flavidus (Kangaroo paw) impulse purchase

This one may be a mistake - apparentlly this Australian native is difficult to grow almost anywhere in the US. They seem to do OK in California, but the climate here is wetter and cooler in the Winter. Still, if it does survive the winter, it will be a lot of fun. I think I will overwinter it inside, somewhat dry, and move it outdoors in the Spring. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 18, 2006

From Kitchen Gardens International: Beauty Food

Dog fun in the grass

They like running around in the grass. Sometimes they nearly fly.

With the rains starting now, the grass will green up soon.

Drove to work today. Still too tired from the last over-night shift, and the back was hurting.

I did remember to take clothes and some food for tomorrow.

Exact miles, work door to house front door: 9.6 miles. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 17, 2006

One day's harvest

One day of harvest. Plus a half-pound of Chinese chive for dumplings. Not bad for a small yard.

Still tired; last night was an all-nighter at work, no breaks. Slept 1/2 of today.

Small back spasm, more due to being tired than anything that I did, so will drive tomorrow. Will bring clothes to work for anticipated bike ride on Tuesday. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sempervivum & Sedum "roof" project

This view shows an individual compartment, lined with recycled pond liner. The white area is a plastic mesh cover, made from a used mesh bag (that originally contained garden bulbs). The mesh covers the pipe outlet. The bottom of the box slopes about 1 inch per foot, toward the drain. The pipe is the only item specifically purchased so far for this project, 3/4" inside diameter rubber tube (about $1.75 for the entire length).

Close up of drain arrangement. The white plastic mesh was stapled to the side of the box so that it would not move around. The plastic pond liner is stretched around the end of the pipe.

After adding growth medium. The growth medium is "Whitney's organic potting soil", lightened with about 25% perlite for better drainage. After exploring the plant options, sedum was used in addition to sempervivum. About 1/2 of the plants were scrounged from around the yard, mainly Sempervivums that have multiplied and spread in several locations, and needed thinning, and Sedums that have been used for ground cover in dry locations. The other 1/2 were from end-of-summer sale at Portland Nursery. This view is from the stairway. Coming up the stairs, the plants can be viewed at eye-level.

Viewed from front door. My only real concern is that this is on the North side of the house, and the succulents may not flourish there. I think they will do OK, since there are already some at ground level on the North side of the house and North of a large tree.

This project is inspired by various green roof articles, such as a university site from Michigan, a do-it-yourself garage roof (with nice photos), a do-it-yourself roof in Vancouver Canada, and some sites in the UK. Even though it is the top of a small wall, it actually does serve as a small roof for a basement room, and the existing wall did leak into the basement. I'm hoping that with the pond liner and the drain system, the leakage will no longer occur, and that the plants will not require summer watering or other significant care. Posted by Picasa

Genetic Dwarf Peach "Garden Gold"

This "tree" is in its first bearing year, second year in this garden (but only 3 peaches). As with a lot of garden fruits, they taste more like one would expect from a peach, compared to the grocery store type. They are quite "peachy" and sweet.

The tree doesnt take up much space in the garden. Near it is a "Honey Babe" which is 5 years old, and is about 5 feet tall and 4 feet across at the top. It bore last year but not this year.

These trees are covered with pink flowers in the Spring. I keep saying that even if they dont have any peaches, they are worth it for their appearance. But I do want the peaches.

There is a good Mother Earth news article about these miniature trees. It has lost some of its formatting, but is still interesting to read. These trees are very dwarf, due to a loss of length of stem between nodes - instead of several inches between notes, there is only about a millimeter between nodes. They are said to be very high yielding - much more than the same amount of orchard space with larger trees.

The biggest hurdle to fruit, in this climate, is leaf curl. This disease strikes in Spring just after blooming. I tried a lime sulfur spray last winter and Spring, and it might have helpd some, but I think that the reason that there were so few fruits is that this disease strikes just when blossoms are setting. It may be possible to cover the trees during the winter to prevent this problem (I dont have faith in this approach) or a different (still organic) spray. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Main crop- Vancouver figs begin

These are the first of the main crop figs from my 'found' Vancouver variety fig. The first wasnt as sweet as the breba - due to cooler / shorter days? Ate too soon?
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Monday, September 11, 2006

Project: Sempervivum roof from recycled materials.

This short wall at the house entrance had the unfortunate habit of channeling water into the basement.

I collected recycled wood from the garage, mainly 2 X 6 's and some plywood, and constructed the box in this photo. The bottom slopes away from the house. The liner is recycled black rubber pond liner. I still need to construct a drain system so that any water that collects will be directed away from the house.
The box will be filled with coarse broken rocks and slate, perlite, and potting soil. Sempervivums and sedums will be planted as a living roof. These plants tolerate dry conditions, poor rocky soil, heat, and cold. I've been sticking starts between rocks in a recycled concrete wall, and they grow well there.

Sempervivum has a long tradition as a roofing plant. It is very durable. The name means "I always live" and refers to the plant's durability. They are originally from the Mediterranian and Himalayas. Romans grew it at their entrances to show their prosperity, and in Northwestern Europe, it was grown on roofs to deter lightning and fire.

Sempervivum is used today in projects for creating "green roofs" in urban settings and for home projects. It will be fun to see how this project turns out. My main concern is the northern exposure, but I already have a number of these plants in north facing locations and they seem to do fine. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Just for Show. Worked from home today.

Rose of Sharon (Althea or Hibiscus syriacus) has been grown since Biblical times; there is mention in the Songs of Solomon. This shrub is tolerant of dry conditions, so I rarely water it. It blooms from mid summer to fall. There are self-sown seedling near the original shrub - will they have similar blossoms? If there is room for them, we'll know in a year or two.

Lilium Speciosum rubrum, nonhybrid oriental lilies. Nice fragrance, bloom later than all of the other lilies in the garden. These too seem fairly dry tolerant, now that they are established.

I worked via computer hookup from home, so no bike ride but no drive either. That seems like a fairly earth-friendly way to work, I suppose. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friends. Summer cold.

Fortunately off work (although on call as backup).

Nasty cold today, cough, headache, congestion.

Kitty doesnt mind the dogs when she is closer to their height. At ground level they can be like overly frisky elephants (compared to her size) so she is less likely to put up with them. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thursday. Tomatoes in Window. Bike miles this week.

Every day, a few more fresh tomatoes.

This year's favorites....

For large, 'meaty' tomatoes:

1. Lemonboy for production, earliness, and flavor. Kind of tropical fruity. Given all of it's qualities together, this is the #1 tomato for this year and last year.
2. Cherokee purple for flavor. Kind of smokey/salty. This tomato was neither purple, or as its other name suggests, black - it was more of a burgandy / brown. Wonderful, rich flavor. Not very productive (although not in the sunniest spot, so it may not have been a fair test).
3. Yellow Brandywine for flavor, although not very productive.

3. Betterboy for pruduction and traditional tomato flavor (not as productive as lemonboy which was #1 in number and size of fruits).
4. The remaining large tomato, Tomande, was more productive in numbers, than Cherokee or Betterboy, but really not much for juiciness (some fruits were almost hollow) and consistenct of good flavor.

For Cherry Tomatoes:

1. Sweet 100. Best flavor for cherries and second best production.
2. Distant second for flavor, Sungold - heavily hyped, very productive, the the flavor was a distant second.
3. Probably not worth repeating, Sweet Baby Girl and Sugar Snack. More compact plants, but flavor also a distant second from Sweet100 and not nearly as productive.
4. For persistence, the volunteer Golden Nuggets which were not planted in that location since three years ago, but came up from volunteer last year and this year (and ranks just behind Sweet 100 in flavor).

Bike miles 66 but I may be underestimating. Next Monday I need to drive, due to meetings in Portland, so will doublecheck the miles. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Computer room companionship

Is it the cool floor? Or proximity to this humble blogger? Either way, it's nice to have them here. One room away, they have soft beds but they choose the spot shown, at my feet.

Garden yield today: a big bowl of tomatoes, various sizes and colors, about 3 pounds. Sefveral large bunches of grapes. A handful of raspberries. Enough garlic chives to serve as the vegetable filling for Chinese dumplings.Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day. Getting ready for tomorrow's bike commute.

So far not called in. This could change wiwthout a moment's notice.

Getting ready to bike to work tomorrow. Nobody needs to worry about "getting ready to drive to work tomorrow" but that's not true for bike commuting. The following are needed for me (if it's not actively raining - then there's more):

1. A clean change of clothes. If I forget something, I'm out of luck. I keep a pair of shoes at work, so I dont have to carry those too. CLothese are packed in rain-resistant bags, and carried in a side pack. If I happen to drive to work, I take some clothes to leave there, but that is happening less often now.
2. Sometimes, shower supplies like a towel & soap (although I leave them there so I dont need to take them every day).
3. Food. There are no 'healthy' places to eat near where I work. Really, zero, it's all fast food. And no time to go there even if there were. Lately, this entails salad greens, a few tomatoes, some bread, peanut butter, and some yogurt. For tomatoes & salad a non-mashable container is needed. A small rubbermaid box does the job.
4. The key card needs to be accessible so I don't have to stop and un-bungie everything to get into the building. Keys need to be the last thing packed, so I dont wonder while I'm riding if I forgot them. Can't get into the desk without keys.
5. Any home-work goes into a water- and dirt-proof package.
6. On the off-chance that I'll be paged, the pager needs to be on my clothing in a location where it won't fall off, and can hopefully be heard. So, the cell phone also needs to be out of the "bungied" rubbermaid box, and on my person, too. And in a safe location that wont fall off.
7. Now that it's darker in the am, the diode lights need to be in working order. So, the batteries need to be charged. These render me fully visible on the road (one bike commuter told me that someone thought he was a christmas tree on wheels. The better to be seen by motorists).
8. Bike gear set out. The best sweat band is a folded bandana - machine washable, no elastic to wear out, cheap. Currently, wool socks and hiker sandals; these will be exchanged for something more water-resistant soon. Bike shorts and a T-shirt.
9. Coffee pre-measured and water ready to turn non coffee maker on first rising, to saave a few minutes.
10. Check tires & lights before going to bed.

If it wasnt for the 'earth-friendly' and 'veggie' thing, it would be easier, but that isn't 'me'.

I can't believe that I do all of this. Actually, it doesnt take that long - maybe 15 minutes. It's remembering everything that was difficult, and once in the routine, not a big deal.

Still, it's worth it and the rewards are many - exercise that leaves me feeling good, doing something that I feel good about, observing the neighborhoods that I ride through, and feeling a bit like the 'road warrier' that I like to think I am. Sometimes. Sort of.

Oh - the photo. This is a brugmansia. These are in the nightshade family (like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants). Faintly fragrant. Amazing to look at in person, they look tropical and lush, and vaguely sinister. Apparently they can be overwintered by letting them dry out and leaving them in the basement with a rare addition of water when very dry, same as fig trees, fuscias, and geraniums. We will find out, this winter.

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