Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31, 2008 / January 1, 2009

Happy New Year all!

Out with 2008 and in with 2009.  May your gardens grow and produce more of your families needs than ever before.  I know that's one of my resolutions.  Grow more in the same amount of space.  Learn from my mistakes and get better.

I also resolve to try to use open source or heirloom varieties and try to save my own seed. 

Finally, I resolve to eat more from my garden than I have in the past.  To find creative ways to work our fruits and vegetables into our diets daily through variety.  I know it can be done, figuring out how is the hard part.  What can't be eaten, I resolve to preserve for use later, or share with family and friends.

I hope you have similar goals for 2009, maybe even expanding on your garden.  I sure wish I could without going completely nuts.  hehe

Enjoy your garden, and 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30, 2008

Wow, must have been a much bigger wind storm last night than I thought.  When I checked the garden today, not expecting anything, I found it in complete disarray.  Bed #2 had completely lost it's cover, and the cross brace on Bed #1 had fallen down.  In addition, since all the snow had melted from around the front openings the wind had opened them up to let any warm air escape. 

Of course the plants looked as bad in broad daylight as they did the other day at twilight.  I didn't take any more pictures because I had left my phone inside and wanted to get it fixed immediately.

You see, the reason I went out there in the first place was that for some unknown reason, my hose has been running for a few days.  That's right, my water bill is going to rival the national debt I'm certain.  Crap.  The reason for it is that I didn't turn off the spigot the last time I watered.  I never turn it off, I rely on the nozzle to keep it from running since the spigot is on the other side of the house.  Recall that I haven't completed bringing water to the garden, so dragging a hose around from the front yard to the back was the only practical solution.  I've lived with it ever since.  Well, somehow after I last watered, the water came on at the nozzle.  I know I left it off, but somehow it came on.  Apparently my wife heard something like water running over the last few days but dismissed it because I had her turn off the spigot when it froze.  Major oops.  Grrr.

In other news, I got an email from Territorial Seed Company today.  Last I had communicated with them, they had said they would send me the list of Seminis seeds they are selling for 2009 when they got it, but I should email them back in the new year if they forgot.  I had just thought about emailing them back in light of my post yesterday, and sure enough, I got the list.  Here it is:

BNO28      Romano Gold                                

BN042       Liana                                              OK533      Cajun Delight

BN045       Etna                                               ON542      Mercury

BN059       Helda                                             ON559      Candy

BR091       Packman                                        PP663        Northstar

CF188       Cheddar                                         PP673        Holy Mole

CN203      Seneca Horizon                              PP674        Gypsy

CN207      Passion                                           PP684        Senorita

CR266       Thumbelina                                     PP689        Big Bomb

CU294       Pearl                                              PU727       Wyatt’s Wonder

CU295       Cool Breeze                                   SQ792       Butterstick

CU302       Orient Express                                SQ797       Gold Rush

CU312       Babylon                                          SQ798       Portofino

EG325       Dusky                                            SQ804       Sungreen   

EG332       Fairy Tale                                       SQ825       Early Butternut

EG333       Twinkle                                          SQ827       Ambercup

EG334       Hansel                                            SQ831       Bush Delicata (Conv Only)

LT387        Esmeralda                                      TM870      Celebrity

LT388        Simpson Elite                                  TM871      Big Beef

LT400        Summertime                                   TM885      Yellow Pear

ML456      Fastbreak                                       TM896      Viva Italia

ML458      Pulsar                                             TM924      Super Marzano

ML459      Earlidew                                         TM938      Window Box Roma

ML463      Ambrosia                                       WA989      Yellow Doll


The good news is out of 51 varieties they are selling from Monsanto, only one was I planning on purchasing.  Unfortunately, there is no work around for Yellow Pear tomatoes.  Grrr.  What I don't understand though, is that I am certain I read that Monsanto owns Early Girl tomatoes and Red Sails lettuce, but it's not on their list.  So I pinged them back to ask if they did business with any other company owned by Monsanto, like American Seeds (where they appear to have stuck all their acquisitions).  They responded that they didn't do business with American Seeds.  I may ping them back one more time to ask two questions that they left unanswered.  1) Do they sell any other varieties owned directly or indirectly by Monsanto?  2) Who owns Early Girl and Red Sails?  I really like Red Sails look and taste, and Early Girl does so well here, even if it is a bit small.

I still need to get through the Territorial catalog and go through my seeds. It's huge for 2009.  I don't think I need much, but I will probably order a decent amount.  I also am seriously considering buying tomato seeds this year rather than plants.  I would need a light set-up, but that's ok.  I just need to figure something out.  It will probably be a single shelf system because it needs to be in the heated section of my house.  So it won't be anything like EG's redneck seed starter contraption, but it will work for my purposes.  Therein lies a post for another day.

Enjoy your garden!

Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29, 2008

Carolynp, my garden buddy from GW asked my take on Monsanto.  I figured I’d go one further and explain what I’ve learned about the company and why I have the opinions of them that I do.  I don’t proclaim to be unbiased, so excuse my asides, but here is a lengthy post on everything from soup to nuts about the company and what they’ve done and are doing to food production in the United States and World.


Brief History:

Technically founded in 1901, Monsanto’s (named for the maiden name of John F. Queeny’s wife) first product was ironically Saccharine (what a positive story that product has been) and their next big product was Agent Orange (joy oh joy).  It wasn’t until 1960 that their Agricultural division was formed, and not until 1976 that the product that launched the company was introduced… Round-Up.  A miracle product that kills all organic life, it did wonders on weeds, but also killed wanted flowers and vegetables.  That was a problem.


So in 1981, the company started it’s molecular biology group (at an agricultural company?).  No wonder Monsanto’s own history claims that it was a newly formed company in 2000, and that the original Monsanto no longer existed.  Odd, the bank I work for is proud that Abraham Lincoln signed it’s charter back in the 1860s, even though it’s gone through near countless mergers since then.


Anyway, by 1994 the company had engineered BST, a cow hormone that not only greatly increased milk production, but allegedly caused cancer and other maladies in cows and people who consumed the milk or beef.  But it wasn’t until 1996 that the life sciences division finally solved their Round-Up problem.  Round-Up Ready seed.  Now you could grow Monsanto soy beans and cotton and spray your field with Round-Up from the air, killing only the weeds because they genetically modified the vegetable seed.  Miracle of modern technology.  Soon they expanded it to corn , the most versatile and most planted crop in the nation and canola.


Then, in 2000, the original Monsanto “completed a merger and changed it’s name to Pharmacia Corp” (boy that just sounds like an agricultural company).  That company was bought by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.  I guess they decided making drugs and seeds wasn’t kosher for PR purposes.  They are anything but stupid, definitely not stupid.


Political Clout:

This is where I blend politics with gardening, but to my credit, they did it first… Some names that may be familiar to you:

- Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice for life, was an attorney working for Monsanto.

- Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense, was on the board of directors for a Monsanto subsidiary.

- John Ashcroft, former Attorney General, ultimately responsible for prosecuting companies like Monsanto, was one of the two congressmen with the highest political contributions from the company in 2000.  The other was the chairman of the House Agricultural committee (shrewd).\

The list goes on but mostly it’s folks you’ve never heard of but were influential in various specific aspects of Monsanto’s growth in the bioagricultural field.


Further, there appears to be a revolving door between the FDA and Monsanto.  It seems whenever the FDA digs into something they’re doing, someone leaves Monsanto and joins the FDA to help investigate (boggles the mind).


Finally, it was a seminal moment when under sympathetic leadership this country made it legal to patent, and therefore own, life.  That has led to numerous lawsuits that Monsanto and their money have won whereby farmers not using GMO corn had their crops contaminated by wind pollination and now have their crops and all their seed, owned by Monsanto (just sickening).


Buying Spree:

I guess if you can’t beat them, buy them.  Monsanto has built their company on acquiring seed companies.  Starting back in 1982 when they bought a major soybean seed company, Jacob Hartz Seed Co., they have chipped away at seed companies big and small to expand their domination of food. Here is a partial list of other instrumental acquisitions:

- Seminis, a leader in crop field vegetables.  They have steadily been decreasing the 3,500 varieties that Seminis used to sell (like Early Girl tomatoes and Red Sails lettuce in my garden, grrr).

- De Ruiter Seeds of the Netherlands, a leader in greenhouse vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and melons.

- Agroeste Semetes of Brazil, a major corn and vegetable seed company internationally.

- Several regional commercial seed companies.  Apparently growers that buy from these companies sign an agreement not to save their seed because they are owned by Monsanto.

- Finally, I tried again to find the thread on GW, but I recall one a year ago about a major seed saving and swaping company who’s head was ousted because he refused to be bought out by Monsanto, only to have the company then bought.


Regional seed retailers have signed a Safe Pledge agreement not to sell GMO seed.  Unfortunately that agreement doesn’t apply to all Monsanto-owned seeds.  I was disheartened to find out that Territorial Seed Company from Oregon, that sells seeds for my climate, still sells Seminis seeds.  However, I understand they are looking for alternatives and phasing them out.  I know it’s hard when Monsanto now owns the most popular seed varieties on the planet.

What I don’t understand is that Monsanto also was a major contributor to the Doomsday Vault.  This is where researchers have stored every seed variety on the planet in an artic underground vault for future generations.  To preserve our food supply.  Why would they do that when they are also working on the Terminator Seed, that will die after one year so you can’t save seed.  Nobody can figure that one out, but yes, the Terminator Seed is truly frightening.  


What’s more, I understand they now have the patent on the genetics behind over 11,000 species of plants, meaning nobody can grow them without Monsanto’s permission.  And I’m sure they’re trying to grow that number to include all the varieties we grow in our gardens.


Why seed saving alone won’t stop them:

Seed saving, and multi-million dollar fines won’t stop a huge multi-national conglomerate like Monsanto.  Unfortunately, a billion dollars is not enough to stop them. Last year the company made $2 billion profit.


Frankly the only way to stop them is to reverse the GMO rules, making their use illegal, then rip out the contaminated crops and replant with non-modified varieties. THEN bring anti-trust legislation to bear. They have clearly violated the law by buying the competition.

So while I will not knowingly buy from them, one farmer in Iowa buying seed and roundup for 400 acres trumps me, you, everyone on this site and the Dervaes put together. Oh, and that's not counting the hundreds of thousands of large-scale farmers out there. Every backyard gardener and organic farmer in the world can't dent their pocket book (shame).


You see, their focus is on what is grown nationally and world wide, corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola, not necessarily what the backyard gardener is growing.  Sure they bought all those big, strategic seed companies, but vegetable seed sales only accounted for $400 million of their $2 billion profit.  

 If you would like to know more about Monsanto and what they’re doing to food production world wide (albeit very biased), watch the multi-part Future of Food videos on YouTube.  Very enlightening. 

 Of course, I am a businessman, with a business degree and understand business.  What Monsanto has done is shrewed business.  But I also took an introductory ethics class, and what they've done is highly unethical, to a point that it should be illegal.  No one should own life.  Life should go on.  All those things are contrary to Monsanto.

 I have only touched on the surface of all the issues.  I could go further into the damage they’ve caused local farmers here and elsewhere.  Or maybe how I’m scared that companies like Kellogs is using GMO corn in their products that I’m unknowingly feeding my kids because they believe consumers don’t care if GMO vegetables were used to make their food.  What else am I feeding my kids without my knowledge.  Scary stuff.

 So, with a track record like Saccharine, Agent Orange, and rBST, a poltical clout to get anything they want rammed through the FDA, congress or the Supreme Court, and business practices that sue farmers that don't buy their products for having tainted seed from natural polination, you see a bit why I am so passionate about this issue.






Well Carolyn, I hope that is what you were looking for.  Depressing I know.  Sorry.


Enjoy your garden and convince others to do the same!





Sunday, December 28, 2008

December 28, 2008

I didn't post yesterday, instead I played with the kids, changed a flat tire and watched the boob tube.  Oh and I went out to water the garden and finally see what two weeks of sub-freezing temperatures and several inches of snow cover did to the poor plants.

I chose yesterday because it was the first day in a long while where we had a high of 41.  I never actually saw it to prove it, but it never got close to freezing, which was good enough for me.  Though in hindsight, reading DoubleD's blog she was going to wait for a few more days of warm weather to heavily water, oops.

I guess I'll start with the Reader's Digest version, then give you a twilight tour of bad phone photos of my garden.  In short, I think my garden is dead.  Our climate isn't used to this weather we've been having.  We're 8b for goodness sakes.  We don't get below 20 degrees (not that I recall).  I'm backed-up by the forecasters that stated we haven't had this bad of weather in nearly 50 years.  Insane!  Poor garden.

When I unburried the opening of Bed #1 and pulled back the plastic, I was greeted immediately with the carnage...

Where have all the carrots gone, cold frost passes... /sigh.  I have no idea if the carrots below ground are still there and edible.  I think they very well may be.  I've read that a freeze is great for carrots, that they horde sugars for the long-haul, and that makes for candy carrots.  Soon I will dig up the biggest and share them with my eldest to taste-test that research, hehe.  One possible bright spot in all this, and one of my attempts to be a half-full-glass type of guy.

Further back in the garden, the devistation of temperatures in the teens is evident with the lettuce.

Again sorry for the photo quality, I didn't go out until we were heading out shopping at dusk and basically stuck my arm under the cover, aimed in the general direction and took the picture.  Anyway, you can easily tell just how wilted the lettuce is.  I seriously doubt warm temperatures will bounce these guys back.  I sure hope I'm wrong though, because NOW I'm craving a salad.  Must be my vacation and not being able to walk to a salad place for lunch a few times a week.  I know, shame on me. 

Well, I'm still holding out hope for my succession lettuce.  They don't look nearly as bad as my mature earlier planting, and may very well bounce back with the new growth (whenever that happens).

Undaunted, I moved on to bed #2, only to find much of the same.

This unintentional close-up is of my wilting raddish greens.  You can see in the bottom left corner a red raddish poking out.  I fully expect that most of my raddishes are ok below ground, though many may be cracked and bitter.  My fault for not eating them with DoubleD told me to, hehe.

Moving deeper into the bed, my lush and vibrant spinach now looks like this...

Pretty sad, I know.  But at least the Spinach Leaf Miners don't like the cold either, their population has diminished greatly.  hmmmm?!?

Ok, I know, I know, EG will shake his head in disgust, but I'm including all my pictures in one post.  You'll see why later on in this mega post.

Moving to the last bed (#3), I was pretty resigned to the worst, but still, cauliflower are cold-tollerant plants, right?

I fully expect to see new growth to recover from this, much like the munched leaves earlier being eclipsed by new healthy growth after the organic parasites did their number on whatever was eating them.  See, I'm being optimistic, hehe.  And I guess another bright spot is on the left hand side of the above picture.  Neither August heat, nor sub-freezing temperatures can dent my green onions.  They are truly the wonder plant of my garden.  Not sure how they'll taste. My wife bought some rather than try them.  I guess I'll have to pick one and taste test it for her.  Gladly.

Well, that wraps up my latest (and possibly last this season) garden tour.  But this post doesn't end there.  What's left you say?  Well, an email from my local library told me that I couldn't auto-renew the Four Season Harvest book anymore, so it was time to finish it or return it unread.  As you seasoned reader of this blaugh well know, I've not been too keen on this book.  It's clearly written for the Northeastern gardener, or French gardener, but certainly not the PNW, or any other area of the country garden enthusiast.  Still, I tried to take a few snipets of good information from it, mostly to make it worth my time.  But I must say, the last chapter was INCREDIBLE.  If only the whole book was like that, it would be on my shelf like it is Patti the Garden Girl's (Bostonian that she is).  The last real chapter of the book is on insects, both beneficials and pests.  Eliot Coleman takes a true organic approach to them.  He believes and backs up with research and the experience of others, in a balanced approach to insect management.  I've read this before, that insects in harmony will balance each other out by beneficial insects preying on their pest brethren such that neither gain dominance.  What I hadn't heard before was that an over-abundance of pests in the garden is more a symptom of something wrong with your soil conditions, or the health of the plant.  Similarly in nature, pack predators feed on only the weak or sick of a herd.  So, thinking this way, you would see pests as a symptom of someting wrong with the plant or soil and fix that rather than further damage the balance by using chemicals, or even orgainic pesticides.  Definitely something to research further and think about next time I reach for the Spinosad, BT or DE.

If I have time before I have to return the book, I will search for more useful tid bits from the appendix of all the vegetables and how best to grow them, etc. 

Summarizing the book, I believe it is very similar to Steve Solomon's Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades if you're in Alabama, not very useful.

Well, that's about it for tonight.  My next post will be a reader request.  Carolyn from Oregon has requested a post on Monsanto.  Rather than my last post where I simply stated my loathe for the company and went from there, I will try to educate and explain my opinion.  Hehe, I know, you didn't like my last post on it, and I swore to keep politics out of my blog.  But hey, I doubt I can depleate my readership any more than winter has. hehe, I'm down to less than 100 readers a day now.  Who cares, my main goal with this blog was to keep record of my mistakes and successes so I could learn from them in years to come.

Enjoy your garden, if you still have one after this wacky weather North America's had lately.  If you don't, enjoy the catalogs that should be pouring in about now, I know I am (but that is another post).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I knew we were going to technically have a white Christmas this year, as a day of 35 degree weather didn't do anything to melt all the snow.  However, when we woke this fine morning to see HUGE snowflakes falling as fast as any thunder storm, it truely was a white Christmas.  Before it ended we received another 5-8 inches of snow. 

I haven't gone out yet to see what it did to our driveway (I'm certain I'll be shoveling), but I did take this snow picture from our office window. 

I'm really worried about this latest snow.  It's huge flakes weigh heavily on branches.  If you note the evergreen blueberry bush on the left, the canes are so weighed down I hope they don't break.  That and you can just make out the mound on the far right where my Jersey twig of a blueberry bush is planted.  I watched it get burried alive .  It's so scrawny after being planted in October that I'm worried about it too.

I didn't take pictures of my hoop covers, but a glance out my garage window showed that they are still standing.  Tomorrow I'll have to get out there and do some "gardening".

Well, I had better go out and see what I can do to unbury the van to head across town to my folks place.  Unfortunately all the effort I put into shoveling a 75 foot driveway at my in-laws last night did nothing to help them get to Chrismas dinner (with all the pies).  They called to say they got another 8 inches themselves and all the work I did was for naught. /sigh  Well, at least I saw them yesterday and the kids got their presents.

Here's wishing you and your families the Merriest of Christmases and the safest of holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 23, 2008

Well, I must say, being on vacation during all this white stuff has made me an expert at driving on snow.  I've certainly done enough of it.  That and my arms are still sore from all the shoveling.  Insane, and we're supposedly expected to recieve another 2-8 inches tonight and tomorrow.  I hate to jinx it, but I'm dreaming of a White Christmas...  It's been forever, if ever, that we've had one at my house.  I remember growing up that I'd long for a white Christmas, and never get one.  Sure I've said this already, but it's a big deal, so it bears repeating.

So, after running around looking for the last few items on my wife's shopping list to make all our family gifts again this year, I found I was slipping and sliding more than ever tonight.  Maybe it was because it was 33 degrees rather than in the 20s.  Not sure.  All I know is that I'm glad for shopping local.  I found all the hard-to-find items at our local stores.  Lemon Drops came from Bartels, and the white chocolate baker's chocolate came from our local independent grocery.  Pretty cool, I just had to comment.

Anyway, I promised a look at my compost bins.  I've only scraped the snow off of them once, after the first snow.  Since then I've not ventured out much, other than to take these pictures and play with the kids.

Couple of interesting points about the bins.  First off, we had over a foot of snow before this pic was taken.  Why is there only a few inches on top of my cover?  I can only think that it's due to the tree cover, though it's not a complete cover when all the leaves are off the pear tree.  Interesting.  I'm glad it didn't have a foot on it because 2x2s and corregated fiberglass wouldn't hold that much weight, for sure.  That's the second point, I'm happy that it is holding up so well, no sag in the middle or anything.  Pretty solid construction... not EG quality, but it's working.  And lastly, look at the right hand side.  I'm shocked that some creature hasn't made a home out of it.  That's the place I had planned on putting all the leaves for use as browns next year, but I didn't get nearly enough, so I just added them to the top of my pile.

Here's a glimps of my pile.  The wind blew in some snow throught he pallets, but when it melts it will just add some more moisture to the pile.  You can see that I have just been dumping my kitchen scraps on top, without any mixing.  Yeah, those are a ton of crackers.  My youngest got into the bag and spilled them all over the floor.  Not happy about it, but I wasn't going to let them eat off the floor.  So compost they became.

That reminds me.  Today was garbage night.  Supposedly we're getting collection tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath.  Anyway, it was interesting.  They cut us down to a 20 gallon can (and increased the cost) this year.  I wasn't so concerned about that, but what I really got upset about was the alternating recycling and yard waste pickup.  With my compost I rarely have more than half a can (weeds) of yard waste, but we go through a ton of recycling.  We do our best to recycle everything we can, so that's always overflowing.  But the funny thing is that we almost never fill our tiny garbage can.  With our kitchen compost and recycling, we don't generate that much garbage.  In fact, after the youngest potty trains (soon I think), we will cut our garbage in half.  Yeah, I'm proud of being green, and that's not some fad, I've been working on it for a decade.

Well, time to go make Christmas cookies, double-dipped cherries and Key Lime fudge, etc. yummy.

Enjoy your garden.

Monday, December 22, 2008

December 22, 2008

Only two shopping days til Chrismas.  And unfortunately, we're still snowed it.  Even more so since the snow plow came through our neighborhood and built up a 3 foot snow wall in front of our driveway.  Great for folks driving along the road, but impossible to navigate if you live on the street.  And I mention the shopping days because we had things to do today.  Meaning we had to try to get out, take the kids to my folks, and shop for stocking stuffers. 

Funny story.  I figured with my VAST experience with tons of snow, that I could get by with just tire track-width clearing would be fine.  Unfortunately, I didn't consider the van getting high centered in compact snow and get stuck.  So instead of an hour of work to completely clear the driveway, it took twice that to dig the snow out from under the car.  Thankfully when I was finishing up, a neighbor came over and helped me push the car off the hill and even helped dig out the rest.  Rather nice of him. 

Needless to say the shopping was less than perfect, and the roads sucked outside of the really main roadways and the freeway.  Once the sun went down we had a real challenge with bad traffic and compact snow and ice.  Thankfully when we got to my folks to pick the kids up, they fed us a freshly made spagetti diner (my mom makes a cauldron of sauce twice a year).  Then, as folks were chatting, I went out and shoveled my folks driveway so my dad could get out (his finger's broken).  My brother had already shoveled my mom's car out.  So now they're golden.

So, since yesterday we got more snow, but I thought I'd share my hoop covers.  I left most of the snow on the covers to insulate them a bit.  I hear that works.  Who knows. 

That one was the one without the horizontal support (it fell down and I didn't get a chance to put it back up before the first snow hit).  As you can see, the flag-pole-stand pipes actually worked well to hold it up and support it.  But as you can see the openings are burried in snow, sealing it better, but keeping me from checking it out.

Here is my snow cave.  The cross bar is still in this one, and it's also the one that has the temperature gauge in it (currently it's 29 degrees inside at 10:30).  The bright side of all this cold and snow is I bet the carrots will taste like sugar.  Here's to hoping the lettuce, spinach and peas are still edible.

Lastly, the little bed.

It sure looks funny under all that snow, but I'm sure the cauliflower are doing just fine.  That is, if they don't mind not getting water for over a week. hehe

The funny thing is if you look behind the small bed at bed #4, it has only two or three inches of snow accumulated on it.  Though in the rest of the yard we have nearly a foot.  Odd, but fine by me. 

Tomorrow I'll share my compost bins.  I thought I would reverse them, but maybe folks would be more interested in my garden than my compost, hehe.  By the way, I've heard that we may get more snow before Christmas, but regardless there's a good chance we'll have our first white Christmas in forever!  The kids won't remember it, but we'll take plenty of pictures to help them.  It was always a big deal to me growing up, so it'll be fun to share it with my boys!

Enjoy your garden and stay warm!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

Yay, from here on out the days are getting longer and the sun is getting stronger!  I still can't believe that the City of Seattle postponed their celebration of it until the weather gets better.  Silly, silly city.  You don't postpone the 4th of July until the 11th because it's raining...

Anyway, if we thought we had snow before, it's been snowing pretty much non-stop for a day and a half.  We have over a foot, which must be a new record for us.  I know the cold temperatures are.  We haven't seen temps below 20 degrees in over 50 years. 

The kids had a blast today.  We were only out for about an hour and a half, it was just too cold for them.  And my little guy could barely walk the snow was so deep.  Unfortunately my perfect neighbor gave me a bad time about his spending five hours shoveling his driveway and walk (he's got all of 50 or 75 feet of sidewalk compared to my 250).  So the last half hour was spent racing through with a regular flat shovel (I don't believe in unitaskers).  I got two shovel widths on the sidewalk, so that should be good enough.  I was going to do my 80 year old neighbor's sidewalk but my arms were jello by then and the kids wanted to get inside.  Nothing like fresh chocolate chip cookies and hot cocoa to warm the noes and toes.

I did get to take some pictures.  First, scroll down to see the pic from my office window looking at my blueberries.  See the concrete retaining wall?  Well, now you can't...

And so much for my garlic plants poking through the snow, they're covered now.  Oops, hope that isn't bad.

Anyway, here are the new blueberry bushes, they're not looking so healthy.  I hope they enjoy this feezing snowy period like some perenials...

Well, I think I'll take a page from my good buddy EG's book when I stop the pictures there so I can space them out longer.  That and it'll give you some reason to come back.  Tomorrow I'll show you what the storm did to my raised beds and hoop covers.

Stay warm and dream about your garden!

Friday, December 19, 2008

December 19, 2008

I hadn't planned on posting tonight.  Nothing new in the garden, other than the snow that I still need to brush off the hoop covers.  You see, today we got out at 3 due to inclimate weather anticipated to snarl the commute home.  Sure enough, I waited a half hour in 25 degree weather waiting for a bus that never came.  Others around me had been waiting for over an hour.  Insane!  Finally I called my wife, who was running errands anyway, to come get me.  So I spent the next hour and a half sipping a Starbuck's coffee waiting for her.

As I was waiting, I was checking Garden Girl's forum, and ran across a post by my old SFG buddy, Flatlander.  It seems that after decades of Reagan and Bush appointees with direct ties to Monsanto, President-Elect Obama has nominated former Governor Vilsack as his Secretary of Agriculture.  It seems that Governor Vilsack has direct ties to Monsanto also!  That doesn't surprise me as he was the governor of Iowa.  But really, Monsanto's monopoly and damaging ways of GMO and Terminator seeds has to be stopped, not continued by the incoming administration.

So not only did I sign the Organic Consumer Association's petition against the nomination, but I went to and sent the transition team my own email expressing my disappointment.  As I was about to click send, I thought I would copy it and let you read it. 

"I am surprised and disappointed that President Elect Obama chose someone connected with Monsanto to be his Secretary of Agriculture. 

Contrary to what the Reagan and both Bush administrations have said, the American public does not want to eat GMO food.  And owning life is not acceptable, even if it is plants.  Finally, one comany should not own 40% of the food grown in the United States, that is what is called a monopoly. 

I understand money talks, and Monsanto has a great deal of it.  But I would think that the fact that countless Republican and conservative leaders are directly linked to Monsanto would make our President Elect stay as far away from that company as possible. 

Unfortunately if former Governor Vilsack's name is not removed from consideration, I will have to request that the two Democratic senators from Washington State vote against his nomination.

Thank you for your time."

In case you aren't familiar with Monsanto, check out the video series on YouTube entitled The World According to Monsanto.  It is very enlightening and sickening. 

Well on a brighter note, today I start two weeks vacation.  Too bad I couldn't have made use of the time in the summer, but it will be fun nonetheless.  Hey, I will get to see my garden in the daylight, even if it is under tons of snow and frozen solid (the garden is 21 degrees right now).

Enjoy your garden!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 18, 2008

Ah, Seattle.  We are not set up for snow.  Too many hills and too few snow plows for the entire region.  As a result, the THREAT of snow mid-afternoon on Wednesday actually closed schools all over the area.  Insane really.  Their excuse was that they didn't want kids and parents out in the snow when they let out of school!  Back in my day that would have never happened.  As it, the snow didn't start falling here until 3:45, well after school is out. 

The funny thing is that we had this bubble around the greater Seattle area, or a shadow effect from the mountains around us.  The bubble kept the snow away all day long.  Instead, north of Everett (15 minutes north of my house) was getting dumped on all day, and south of Tacoma (about an hour south of us) was also getting tons of snow.  Of course it messed up the commute, but I got home before the worse of it fell.

So, thus far, we've got about 3 inches, and it's still falling.  I'm working from home.  I have to get things ready for the deal I've worked for three months on to close tomorrow.  Bad timing.

Anyway, I don't know if we'll get out today, the kids want to.  But I did snap this picture of my blueberry beds since EG got on my case about not including pictures in all my blog entries.  Hehe, I'll be good for the next few weeks, but unless you want pictures of darkness, you ain't getting any during the week.

Stay warm and enjoy your garden!

Monday, December 15, 2008

December 15, 2008

Short post today. The weather hasn't gotten above freezing in 48 hours, which is insane for the Seattle area.  With the warm ocean air coming of the Puget Sound we rarely have freezes for long, let alone a week or more as they are predicting.  Oh and we're expecting more white stuff Wednesday, to add to the ice that's remaining.

What I wanted to share is that my wife called to ask where the thermometer was outside.  When I said under the hoop covers, she said oh that makes sense.  Seems it read 31 degrees at noonish, but when she checked the temp for the area it said it was 25 degrees.  Maybe, just maybe, the hoop covers are actually working a bit.  Novel concept.

Thanks for all the comments. I am very hopeful that the veggies will bounce back when the weather heats back up.  Frost hasn't damaged them, only the freezing temps.

Oh, lastly, I've agreed to write another article for Patti's ezine.  This one will be a bit more difficult because the only topic I was given was SFG.  A bit broad, hehe.  Should be fun.  No clue when it's coming out but I'll be writing it this week.

Take care all and stay warm.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 14, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.  Well, it only snowed overnight, but the freezing temps all day kept the snow from melting.  That was bad news for the garden but good news for the kids.

First the garden.  As expected, the inch or two we got didn't do much to the hoop covers, though it would have been a good idea to re-install the cross pole on the top of bed #2.  Well, here's a shot before I brushed the snow off.

That and the wind kept undoing the fronts of the beds, so I doubled the number of bricks I used to weigh down the plastic.  Thankfully the binder clips held nicely or it could have been worse.

Now I know what you're thinking, what happened to the veggies.  Well, I only snuck a glance at the spinach because the boys wanted to play.  The spinach didn't look so hot, but I'm hopefull it will bounce back after it warms up, sometime late next week if the forecast holds.

When I made it back to the backyard from the garden, I found the kids making snow angels.  How cute!

Then we proceeded to have a snowball fight.  Needless to say I was far more accurate then they, but I let them come right up and get me good to make up for it.

Then we went to the park to play on the big play set.  Here's the little guy coming down the slide... precious!

Lastly, I did take a couple of pics of my unprotected garden area.  I just love this Legacy blueberry bush. It's an evergreen and has the most beautiful shade of red leaf that stands out nicely against snow.

And then there was my garlic.  Several of the cloves must not have sprouted, because I know I planted more than this, but I'll take what grows and know to plant more next year.

Well, tomorrow should be fun trying to make it down the hill to the park & ride.  Maybe I should take the bus.  Not sure.  I went out today and slid a bit.  Others had it much worse because they didn't know what to do.  Still, that hill bothers me.  Too bad it couldn't have held off for a week until my vacation starts.

Well, as I'm writing this the temperature's dropped to 24 degrees.  And thanks to DoubleD who set me straight about the averaging of the temperatures, so even if we drop below 20 degrees, it won't change our climate rating, just make me wonder about it.  Isn't there something just plain odd about the weather this year?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 13, 2008

Thanks all for your weather updates.  Sure we're wimps here.  Being on the coast does that to us.  The warm weather coming of the water always keeps our temps above 20 degrees, but it also brings tons of rain.  If only I were a few thousand miles to the south I'd be in San Diego, which has 75 degree weather all year long, hehe.

Well, it's 34 degrees and snowing at 11 pm.  But because it's above freezing it's only sticking to the grass and not the road.  That and it should melt by tomorrow morning. 

But last night was a heavy storm with high winds.  When I checked the hoop covers this morning, this is what I found.

Yep, the wind did a number on my hoop covers.  The cross bar on bed #2 came off completely and it slid down on bed #1.

Unfortunately we were on our way out to shop for the kids, and I didn't have a coat on, so about all I did was put the plastic back over the hoops and weigh it down with the brick.  The cross bar is laying in the gravel path for now,  I really need to drill some holes and throw some bolts into it.  Twist ties just don't hold it in place well enough.

But now I'm worried about the snow.  Without the cross bar the snow will weigh down on the plastic in between the hoops.  It'll be interesting to see what it looks like tomorrow.

Oh, and I didn't even look under the hoop covers, let alone take pics.  Tomorrow I hope to do all that.  That is if it warms up and the snow stops, which I'm confident will happen.

At least the good news is that the jumbo clips held like a charm.  The plastic stayed in place so not all would have been lost if the weather had turned as foul as they forecast for the next few days.  Brrr.

So I'm going to check to see if we really will have to drop a point or letter based on the temps over the next few days.

Stay warm and enjoy your garden!

Friday, December 12, 2008

December 12, 2008

The forecasters in this area are almost never right. I feel sorry for them, they come accross as idiots every time they're wrong.  They had everyone scrambling for snow like we've never seen here, nearly a foot in some areas.  My father-in-law said there was a run on Costco with folks racing to stock up for the long haul.  What those people failed to realize, is that that forecast lasted through last night, and through this morning, but by noon it was clear that the weather was going to remain far too warm for that to happen.  So instead we have had an inch or so of rain and heavy winds.  A typical fall/winter storm for our area.  And you guessed it, the temp in my hoop cover is 37 degrees.

Now they're forecasting Monday and Tuesday to drop into the 20s.  Will they eat their hats again?  We'll see.  My pipes are wrapped, the hose is off to the garden, I'm set either way.

How about you?  How's your weather holding?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 11, 2008

Well, now is the time we find out whether or not I really live in Zone 8b or not.  According to the hardiness zone map, we're not supposed to get below 20 degrees, that's the definition.  Now I've gone on record as saying I don't recall us getting below 20 degrees, but then not being a gardener, why would it necessarily register.  Well, this is what folks were talking about at work...


43° F | 34° F
6° C | 1° C

Snow Showers

38° F | 23° F
3° C | -5° C

Chance of Snow

32° F | 22° F
0° C | -6° C


31° F | 20° F
-1° C | -7° C

Partly Cloudy

32° F | 22° F
0° C | -6° C

Note the snow in the forecast, well that's got folks talking. And I'm supposed to be at a Christmas party for a customer tomorrow.  Hope the roads are ok.  Anyway, look at the next two days, pushing the limits of 8b. And some places in the area may dip down as low as 15 degrees.  That would definitely be a no-no.  Of course, maybe if it's a decade between occurances the map wouldn't be redrawn.

Either way, it's REALLY cold outside.  I've thrown my themometer out there again to see if being below freezing does anything different under my hoop covers.  The outside temp was 38.8 when I brought it in to change the batteries.  Now their in their positions to tell me the story.

Stay warm and enjoy your garden!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December 9, 2008

Wow, has it been THAT long since I posted.  Well, I've got no good reason.  Sure I'm still sick and working long hours, but what else is new?  Well, nothing in the garden. 

To answer Judy's comment question, I didn't spend any time in the garden this weekend.  I'm pretty certain it's fine, but I can't be sure.  I didn't even go out to water it.  I slept most of Saturday and spent Sunday with the family and helping my folks.  I didn't even take my son out there like I promised. 

About the only garden-related things I've done lately is visit my favorite garden forums and blogs, and read my book.  Shame on me, I know.  Take for instance tonight.  We couldn't think of dinner plans, so instead of suggesting a salad, we had a smoothie.  And not even a spinach smoothie either... Grrr.

I'm really looking forward to sit down meals with the family again.  Some day soon those had better return. Maybe then I'll feel better about making a fresh salad, or even breaking out the frozen green beans that I haven't even tried yet, or bake some more bread.

Reading about EG's adventures over in Alabama makes me long for spring when I can winter sow some broccoli tomatoes and the like. 

On the weather, Judy's got tornados in Mobile, but all we've got is a cold front moving in.  Going to have freezing temps the next two days, and maybe even some white stuff on Friday night.  I'm confident my hoop covers can handle it but I should give them some water tomorrow morning before the cold sets in. 

Stay warm all, and enjoy your garden!

Friday, December 5, 2008

December 5, 2008

It didn't surprise me, but this morning I headed out for work and found my car windows were frosted over.  This makes the second light frost we've had this year.  One back in mid November and another today.  I haven't had light to see how my garden is doing, but I just bet it's humming along fine.  Tomorrow I'll get out there and see for myself.  Hopefully I'll play with my kids out there as well.  I haven't spoke to my folks on any schedule for this weekend, but I'm still sick so I hope it's light.

Today was interesting at work.  I scrambled to get stuff done so I could take a half-day off to spend our annual day wandering around downtown seeing the lights and the art displays.  For years they had local artists decorate 6 foot tall fiberglassish nutcrackers.  The kids adored them.  It was great running around finding them on corner after corner.  So creative and fun.  This year all they did was shape christmas-lights around metal frames into shapes.  Cute but very industrial.  Ah well, we didn't get very far. We were too sick.  So they went home and I cut my vacation short and went back to work.  I left around 6 and boy was that a mistake.  Traffic was the worst getting out of town. 

The only good part about a 2 hour bus ride is I got a ton of reading done.  Now I know all about how to build all sorts of hoop covers, cold frames and greenhouses.  The most complicated of which is a mobile greenhouse on tracks that you can use to jump start spring veggies, boost summer production, and winter garden all in adjacent gardens along the path.  Interesting, but useless to me.  And have you ever tried to figure out a complex process just by reading how to do it?  Not the easiest thing to do. Anyway, I'm hoping now that I get into something more useful.

Enjoy your garden!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

December 4, 2008

Wow, bet you didn't think I'd have another post so soon.  Well, thank you everyone for your concern and well wishes, I'm hacking up a storm.  My co-workers are planning a hoop cover for my cubical, I think they called a quarantine tent, but same difference.  Actually they kept making snide comments and telling me to go home.  They didn't appreciate the humor when I asked them which of them would do my work while I was recovering?  We're all swamped.  Have you found that the various Quil medications don't do quite as much as the commercials say?  Anyway, this is a gardening blog.

I'm reading the book on the bus, though frankly this book is boring me.  I'd rather spend my time reading forums and learning and helping folks.  Of course I'll finish it, and I hope to learn tons from it, but get to the point man!  hehe.

One interesting point he made today, I don't know how well it would work or if it's of value to anyone, but apparently you can winter garden under two hoop covers.  Or a hoop cover with a floating row cover under it.  It's an interesting concept, though in my area that is so cloudy all the time, I'd worry that the plants would get ANY sun at all under two covers.  I can't hardly see through the plastic I use anyway, though I'm sure some light gets through.  Definitely worth checking it out, especially if you're in one of those low number zones that get really cold.

So, why did I post tonight. It's late, I am Nyquil'd up and getting ready for bed, but I just had to share.  Proud papa moment...

On one of the several trips to quiet my boys as they played and rough-housed instead of going to sleep after bedtime, my 4 year old calmly asks to tell me something. He asked me if he could garden with me tomorrow morning.  Ahhh, isn't he sweet!  My little gardener.

Enjoy your garden, with your family...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

December 3, 2008

Well, today's Wednesday.  Time to water the garden.  So after slugging through a rough day at work (still sick), I decided to hit the garden before I came inside.  It hasn't rained in several days so I wasn't sure how damp the soil would be under the covers.  Unfortunately the wind had opened the end flaps on all three beds, so any heat that was trapped inside would escape easily, but it's not that cold yet.

I still don't have a light out there, so I watered by memory, and didn't see what was going on under there, but I'm exited for this weekend when I can see if I've got more peas growing and if my lettuce is getting any bigger.

Reading my book, I came across his perfect seed starting medium.  He may not have come right out and said it, but he perfectly described Mel's Mix, hehe.  Guess my brother was right when he said that my seedlings would love my Mel's Mix.

Mr. Colman is really big on France.  As great as this book is, I really need to find someone who did the same journey to England... the UK and Seattle share similar climates.

Today I read about some cool old greenhouses.  And apparently long ago a sign of wealth was if you had a greenhouse and could eat out-of-season fruits and vegetables all winter long.  That's exactly what I'm doing in my garden.  Pretty cool huh?

Oh, and if you are looking to build your own cold frame, he's got great directions in there. Even down to building your own "lights" or window frames, so that the water will run off them instead of being trapped like my normal windows.  Very cool.

So see, the book's not all that bad. I just like poking fun of experts.  Especially when Mr. Colman tells you all about his favorite tools.  Most of which he made by hand, so you're out of luck unless you have a machine shop in your garage. 

Then again, it could be the stress of the job taking it's toll on me.  Boy could I use a day in the garden.  Of course the garden doesn't need a day of work.  It's in fine shape.  Sure it could be tiddy'd up a bit from the toys my kids have left in the paths, and there's always shrooms to "harvest", but all in all, the garden's in good shape.  DoubleD was right.  This is the time for minimal garden effort and maximum garden benefit.  And to think, most gardeners buttoned up their gardens and packed up their tools in September or October!

I sure hope you're extending your season or better yet, four season gardening.  Enjoy!