Sunday, August 30, 2009

Slowing Down

Today I picked tomatoes in the greenhouse. Picking tomatoes is the one garden chore I allow myself to do on Sunday. While I was picking tomatoes, about 50# of them, my mother dropped in. We have some of our best talks in the greenhouse or while we are gardening. We both marveled at the tomato production, the size of the cucumbers and the abundance of the basil. We also both agreed that it is definitely fall. It's not the leaves turning color, the shorter daylight hours or the fact that the peas are about gone that has clued us into the fact that fall has arrived. It is that we are slowing down. In the spring and throughout the summer we both have boundless energy! There are just not enough hours in the day to do all we want to do in the gardens and greenhouses so we will work late into the nights and yet every morning we are both wide awake and ready to go by 5:30. No one in my household understands this, so I literally sneak out to the greenhouse, flower beds or gardens and start working, or is it playing? I know it is fall when I can sleep until 6:00 or 6:30 and not jump out of bed with enthusiasm. I also find it easy to quit at 5:30 in the evenings and not go back outside after dinner. This tells me it is fall. My mother, who is 76, is just like me. We say we have a gardening illness which hits in the spring and leaves us in the fall. It's a good thing fall has come because I think if we kept up the summer pace any longer we would do ourselves some serious damage. It is a good thing we don't live in a place where we could garden year round!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Missing Rachel, Fair, Giant Cabbages, Fall & Eat Alaska Grown

I've sort of been in mourning mode this last week. Rachel left a week ago Sunday night. She is the baby of our family of seven children and she is our caboose. She is five years younger than the next youngest child so she has been my sole buddy for a long time! She has been a fabulous daughter and a terrific partner! Gardening without her will be very different!

Fortunately for me, the garden keeps growing whether Rachel is here or not and the weeds seem to know that my best weeder is gone! Those pesky weeds have sprung up everywhere just like they know that Rachel is not here just waiting to pull them out by their roots and pitch them in the compost pile. I guess I'll have to do that now. There were other things that were solely Rachel's territory that I have had to do this week. She was the potato, zucchini, and broccoli harvester. Today I discovered that I don't like digging potatoes or picking the broccoli florets! I definitely have to work harder and faster now that Rachel is gone, but hey, it is keeping me busy!

Another thing keeping me busy is getting ready for the State Fair! I love the Fair! Every year when I see the rides going up I eget as excited as any kid! I love the animals in the barn, the crops exhibits, the quilts, the flower exhibits, the fabulous flower gardens and hanging baskets adorning the Fair grounds, the entertainment, the smells, the foods! I love the Fair so much that a year ago I became a member of the Fair Board! Every year for the past 23 years my kids have entered their livestock in the 4-H livestock shows and sold their market projects at the 4-H Market Livestock Auction. We have had so many different animals that I can't remember them all. We started with a couple of milk goats, added pigs, then sheep, calves, steers, milk cows, aplacas, pygmy goats, geese and even a couple of rabbits and chickens here and there! As the kids grew up and left home the livestock numbers has dwindled, but Rachel retained her share. This year one of Rachel's projects has been raising Chili. Chili is a big beautiful red 1200# Tarentaise steer. 4-H allows youth to finish their livestock projects their senior year even if they will be gone to college during the Fair. Rachel has managed to get a mileage ticket to come home for the auction weekend, September 5th, but it falls to me to take the steer into the Fair. Rachel has done a great job training him, so I'm not too worried (why worry about leading a 1200 lb animal of pure muscle by a half inch rope halter?) Tomorrow is the day I have to load him into the trailer and take him to the Fairgrounds. If I don't write for awhile (or ever again) you'll know something bad happened.

One of my favorite things at the Fair is the giant cabbage contest. Rachel has entered it for the last three years. This year I have been growing a cabbage. I am hoping that my cabbage will be bigger than any of hers has been. I think her record was 50 lbs and sixth place. I think I have a big one, but then again, it has been a good cabbage year so everyone will have big ones. I'll update you on how I do. The contest is September 4th. When Rachel reads this she will try to take the credit for planting my cabbage, but I am the one who faithfully watered it and what's more, I will be the one who has to figure out how to load the monster and get it to the Fair, so I will claim the glory if there is any to be had.

When the Fair starts I know that Fall is here. There are other signs that tell me it is inevitable. The last of my dahlias just barely opened, and that is a sign that it will soon frost. I rarely get to enjoy the last dahlia for more than a few days. Also, my rocket snap dragons are finally blooming. I planted them as a border for my lawn. That was a mistake because they have taken so long to bloom. Next year I am looking for something that blooms a whole lot earlier! The sweet peas are forcing out their last blooms! I will miss them when they are gone, they have been so lovely this year! It is more than time to cut down the dephiniums. Their empty spires really mar the beauty of the flower beds, but I rarely get to that chore until it is time to clean up the all the flower debris in after the frost takes everything.

One last thing. I just got an email from the Division of Ag announcing that this week is 'Eat Alaska Grown Week'. The challenge is to eat as much Alaska Grown food as you can. Isn't this fun! Of course, we find it quite easy to have all our own produce and we bought pork and beef from local producers last fall and still have plenty in our freezer along with halibut and salmon. I admit that I usually buy eggs at the store, but this week I am buying eggs from my neighbors. It is great to have our local Matanuska Creamery milk and ice cream. I have a limited amount of local honey for a sweetener, but my dilema is the grains. Wheat used to be grown and milled in Alaska, but that was years and years ago. Some farmers in Delta are experimenting with wheat this year, but not in time for this week. I guess I'll eat potatoes this week instead of breads. I am having fun planning this week's menu but it has been nice to discover that we don't have to change too many things to eat local. Isn't Alaska a great place to live and eat?!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Surprises, Announcement, and a Farewell

My mom always talks about the surprises we find in the garden, and she's right. Whether it's overgrown pickling cucumbers, giant cabbages that got HUGE before we even noticed, lettuce that has gone rotten in the middle (I hate this kind of surprise!), or potatoes of different varieties than we thought they'd be, I am in constant surprise at our garden. I'm usually not surprised in the barn however. Every day we have one steer, one alpaca, one goat, three barn cats and six sheep. When I came from home camping the other day though, I was very suprised to find these guys:

So, my question for you is...anyone want a free kitten? :)

As many of you may have heard, the Oberg and Kenley family have been awarded the "Farm Family of the Year." We are very pleased, but I have to tell you that when we found out, my mom and I both started laughing. The reason is this: although my family is and has been very involved in agriculture, through excessive gardening, 4-H and FFA, we do not consider ourselves, and should not be considered, real farmers. My dad is a very successful engineer and he is the breadwinner for our family. My mom and I just love to play in the dirt. But we're very humbled and grateful for the award. If you'd like to read the Anchorage Daily News article, the link is posted under "In the News" on the right. ----->

Well everyone, this is my last post as a co-owner of this business, from Alaska anyways. My flight to Salt Lake City flies out tonight at 11:00 pm, and I start classes on the 18th. I will really miss Alaska while I'm gone, and I will miss all of you. This business started to help my sister and I earn money for college, and without all the great customers I've had, present and past, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to afford this next great adventure. Thank you all. You mean so much to me. Adios!

Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade

After they served this delicious (and Kenley family favorite) beverage at the "Meet Your Farmers" farm tour, a comment was posted on the ADN Talk Dirt Blog requesting the recipe, and we're more than happy to share it with you.

It's very simple. Make a gallon of lemonade, strong. You can make it fresh, but we are lazy and usually use CountryTime mix. Then add 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups of rhubarb juice, and 1 cup of fresh strawberry juice. Garnish with chunks of rhubarb and lemon slices. It's a perfect refreshment after a hot day. I guess we're pretty well out of those, but it's good any day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thieves and Leavers

The Wednesday market was really fun. It was a bit nostalgic for me, because although I love hands-on agriculture, I also really enjoy working with customers, and it was my last Wednesday market! I will miss seeing you all, but I'm excited to start school at Utah State University and study my dream major: Ag Communications.

We had some very exciting produce for sale: corn and artichokes! They certainly sold quickly. Be warned: if you want artichokes, we only have a few, so you'll have to get them really early. And, even if you do come early, make sure to pay for your produce, bag it, and not let it go! On Wednesday we had two artichokes that a customer picked out get bought by someone else before anyone realized what happened! Luckily, she was good-humored about it. So am I. I thought it was hilarious, and worth taking a time out from much needed packing to blog about it.

We also had a few people pay for, and then accidentally leave at the stand, some prize tomatoes and potatoes! Don't do that to makes me sad just thinking about what you're missing.

Perhaps the most exciting event was take down. As my cousin Sara and I stacked our tubs, a gust of wind caught the tent just right and our tent flew up and OVER our car- then rolled several times in the parking lot behind! We were very lucky it didn't break, and we hurried to take the other tent down.
Last but not least, Kenley's Alaskan Vegetables and Flowers is featured in this month's issue of "My Business Magazine," the magazine for the National Federation of Independent Business. All the National Young Entrepeneur Award Winners are featured as well, and my friend Jay Schechtman, the Young Entrepeneur of the Year from Florida, is on the cover. It's got great pictures in print, but if you can't get it, you can read the article here:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What I've Been Doing

I apologize for my long blogging absense. Two weeks ago I attended a church camp in Anchorage, and so was gone for the Farm Tour and all the fun stuff that went on then. Last week, well I guess I was just too busy to get on here and blog. From now on, actually I'm preparing to leave for college, so my posts might be few and far between. Just so you still appreciate me, I'll do something for you that Mom can't, and that's use technology. :) Mom and I have been snapping pictures around our place and at the markets. Hope you enjoy them.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Colorful Vegetables

When I grew up cauliflower was white, broccoli was green, beets were dark red, tomatoes were red, potatoes were white and lettuce was green As I was harvesting today I marveled at the new colors of our vegetables. I always plant a few new varieties every year and this year I decided to try some old favorite vegetables in new colors.

Cauliflower has always been one of my favorites. Coming upon the snowy heads peeking out of their leaves is always a delight! Last week instead of a white heads, there were bright orange cheddar cauliflower heads and this week there were green spiral heads! What a treat to take to the market tomorrow along side my old favorites in white.

Beets also come in new colors. This week I harvested the yellow Goldens and the light red Chiogas. They are so pretty alongside the deep red traditionals and what a lovely beet salad they will make when I combine them.

Tomatoes when ripe should always be red, unless of course they are pink or yellow or even green! I especially love the Lemon Boys. Not only do they taste wonderful, they make a colorful splash along with the reds in salsas or salads. Tiny golden tomatoes are a fun change from the red cherry tomatoes.

I have had fun with potatoes in other colors for several years. I love the Magic Mollies that are purple clear through. I might correct that statement and say that I love growing them. I still have a hard time eating purple mashed potatoes and my family will not eat potato salad that's purple. I do love the bright red Norwegian Fingerlings. They are marbled with red in their white flesh and add color in addition to flavor to any plate.

Lettuce too comes in more colors than the old fashioned green. This year we are growing lettuce tat is red tipped, read and green, all red and some so read that it is nearly black and named Blackjack!

All these new colors in vegetables makes gardening even more fun that it already was! It is so fun to take new things to the market that people have never seen before and to know that my customers will have such colorful food on their plates!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Farm Tour, Working Hard and Beans

Friday the Farm Bureau hosted a Farm Tour of various farms in the valley. I am the secretary of the Farm Bureau so I helped put the tour together. We wanted to bring people who shopped at the farmer's markets to the valley to see where their food is grown. Because our place is very scenic and because the house is big enough to accommodate seating space for 50 if it should rain, the lunch stop was here. Fortunately it didn't rain and we were able to eat in the yard with a fabulous view of Pioneer Peak in the background and the gardens below. We had a meal of all Alaska Grown food catered by Delicious Dave and it was fantastic! Everyone walked through our greenhouse and gardens and we pulled up celery and ate it right in the garden! I so visiting with everyone, answering questions and showing off my gardens and flower beds. The whole tour was so successful that we are definitely going to repeat it again next summer.

Having the tour here Friday meant that this week I was busy--very busy! As luck would have it, Rachel and Sara and Irene, our helpers, were all three gone to a church youth conference this week and I was on my own to do the harvesting, the markets and prepare for the tour. It's a good thing I have three married daughters and a mom and dad who live close at hand. They love me and are willing to help me out rather than let me have a heart attack from working too hard. Nevertheless, even with all their help, I put in long days all week trying to keep up with markets and still have everything neat and tidy for the tour. That meant a lot of weeding, weeding, weeding! Don't feel sorry for me though, I loved every minute of it! I truly enjoy every aspect of gardening and I love being able to be in my gardens and greenhouse fourteen hours a day. It was a perfect week!

The markets this week were very busy! My daughter Rita helped me in Anchorage Wednesday and we were swamped with customers even before we were set up. I have vowed to get set up earlier this week! Celery and carrots made their debut for the year at our stand and they were so good and in such demand that they sold out by noon. This week we'll be bringing twice as much. Green beans were also a hot item.

Speaking of green beans, we are finding them not so easy to grow. We have a small greenhouse dedicated to pole beans and this is our third year trying to grow them there. Something is wrong with our system as we get beautiful plants and few beans. The first year we wrote off to inexperience, last year we blamed the cold wet weather and this year we are out of excuses. We are ready to give up on them, convert the bean house to cherry tomatoes and leave the bean growing to others. That is hard for me to say because I really want to be able to grow everything!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Wind in the Flowers

Someone once told me that the definition of insanity is someone who keeps repeating the same behavior expecting different results. Saturday I was sure that once again I belonged in that category of the certifiably insane! Every year when I plant my flowers as small seedlings I promise myself that when they get a little bigger I will stake them up so they won't fall over and break off. You see, they don't need staked when they are small and the job has to be done after they grow for three or four weeks. Every year I have failed to get them staked before at least of few of them fall over, overcome by their own weight, a heavy rainfall or harassed by the wind. This year I was determined that was not going to happen. As I planted each one, I stuck a nice sturdy steak right beside it so it would be ready to tie to when the time came. My flower beds looked like a yard with big sticks poking up everywhere, but I knew those little plants would grow to cover those stakes. I placed a bag full of tying sting at the ready in the garage, ready for the day when they tying would be necessary. There would be no way I could make excuses this year for not tying up the flowers.

Early last week I looked at the flowers, especially the dahlias, which were heavy with foliage and buds and said to myself, "It is time you staked those flowers up." I put the sting and even a pair of sciccors to cut it with on the porch. Every day this week I walked by that bag of string and thought, "I will stake the flowers right after I _____(fill in the blank with plant the onions, pick the cucumbers, weed the lettuce, dead head the flowers or any number of any chores)". Saturday morning was a perfect morning to do the job but my husband began working on a greenhouse expansion project and although he didn't need my help, I thought it might be nice if I were near enough for him to call for me. I started weeding in the garden. The wind started to blow in the afternoon and so I told myself to quit weeding and go tie up the flowers. I went to the greenhouse and suckered tomatoes. That needed done too. I promised to babysit my grand children that evening and at 5:00 they arrived so I had to come in from the garden. As I walked up the hill to the house, I saw that the wind had done what wind does. It blows over and breaks off flowering plants. I quickly grabbed that bag of sting and with grandchildren in tow we frantically started tying up all of the flowers to my carefully placed stakes. I told the kids that we were on a rescue mission to save all of grandma's flowers. They thought that was neat and were respectfully sad when we discovered broken stems. All the while I was cursing my procrastination and wondering how I could once again have let this happen. In the end, only one dahlia was completely broken off and two others lost some major branches, but if I just would have tied them up earlier I would have lost none. Now I will never know what 'Heather Feather' would have looked like and the big dahlia in the wine barrel in front of the garage is half the size it was. I hope that I have learned my lesson and that next year I will not repeat this year's mistake, but then again I think I fit the insanity definition.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Onions, Onions, Onions!

I must admit that we grow some great onions. Of course, it is not like they are hard to grow or anything. You just have to put onions sets in the ground, heap the soil up around them and make sure they get plenty of water and in about a month you can harvest beautiful green onions-nothing to it. The tedious part is planting them, and well, maybe cleaning them. My kids have all complained about planting onion sets. I guess that is because when they were little and we were planting the garden that was a job I could give to them. The sets were large enough for them to handle, as opposed to tiny carrot or lettuce seeds, and it is hard to plant the sets too close together. It does take time to plant them, though and maybe that is why not many farmers have them at the markets. Rachel and my nieces have become excellent onion set planters so this year I decided that we would plant more onions, alot more onions. I ordered three fifty pound bags of onion sets. The first thing we planted this spring was a long row of onions. We have planted more onions each week. We have onions everywhere! One hundred and fifty pounds of onions goes a long, long way! We are all tired of planting onions!! Today I looked at what we had left and saw nearly a whole bag full of onion sets. We harvested potatoes for the market and so I decided that we would fill up that big empty space with those onions sets. Rachel said she'd do the planting if I made the rows--what a deal! In ten minutes I was done with my job and three hours later, the six rows planted Rachel announced she had quite of enough of onion planting. I looked at what was left of the onion sets--a whole two gallon bucket full. When we harvest Tuesday there will be more empty ground and we will plant the rest of those endless sets. I don't know if Rachel will be willing to make me the same deal again though, I may be down on my hands and knees trying to bury the last of our onion sets.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Garden Suprises

Today was harvest day for the Wednesday South Anchorage Farmers Market. I love harvest days, especially when there is such a lovely variety and new things every week. Every year we try some new vegetables and some new varieties of old favorites. It is always fun to see what we get. We always intend to be diligent in labeling every thing we plant, but invariably something goes wrong and we are never sure where the new things are planted and we just have to wait until they manifest themselves. This makes for some fun surprises, like today when I discovered the Violet Queen cauliflower growing among the snowy white ones! I am afraid the heads are a bit small while the plants are huge, but they are pretty. I will have to think about planting them again next year. One thing I know I will be planting again is the Red Cimeron Romaine lettuce which headed up this week. I knew it was out there somewhere, but we have five different red lettuce varieties and as usual I didn't know where 'Cimeron' was planted so when it distinguished itself with erect beautiful heads it was a real treat to see. I am still waiting to see where the cheddar cauliflower is planted and where the Broccoli Romanesque will show up, maybe next week they'll make my day by peeking out of their green hiding places.

Another garden surprise that I always look forward to is the opening of the dahlias. I do carefully label each plant with it's name, but I have over sixty different dahlias planted. I never remember what Midnight Moon or Firepot or anything else looks like and so I am always delighted to see the blossoms open up. Right now there are hundreds of buds on the dahlias and only a few have opened. Each day a new one blooms and I greet them like old friends. I order most of my dahlia tubers from Swan Island Dahlias and they always have the best tubers I have ever seen and a nearly endless variety to choose from. Dahlias are my favorite flowers to use in arrangements and so I am always anxious for them to come into full bloom.

This was harvest day and although I just love these days, they do exhaust me. I need to get some sleep for tomorrow is market day and if there is one day I love more than harvest day it's market day!

Monday, July 13, 2009

One Hot Day and Rhubarb Cookies

The day was warm enough for shorts. Unforetunately, that meant that the hard dry ground really hurt our knees as we weeded! I will be happy to give them a break while we harvest tomorrow. The heat is nice for us, but I discovered today that it has caused a batch of radishes to go to seed. So there's another job to be done! The corn is loving the heat however. Look at how tall it has gotten compared to our employees Sara and Irene!

Another thing we did today was harvest Swiss Chard like crazy. That really needed done, especially since a lot of it went to seed. We sold 75 bundles to Arthur Keyes for his Glacier Valley CSA boxes.

Okay, what I really wanted to post about today was rhubarb. I get so sick of people wrinkling their nose at rhubarb! It is so delicious. I like it plain, but for those of you who don't, here is an excellent recipe for Rhubarb Cookies. My mom hasn't made these in a few years, but I am dying to have them again, so I think I will make some myself after I log off here. They freeze well and are really sweet and delicious. Give them a try! Here's the recipe:

Frosted Rhubarb Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups fresh diced rhubarb
3/4 cup flaked coconut

1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In mixing bowl cream shortening and brown sugar. Beat in eggs. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in rhubarb and coconut. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. In separate mixing bowl beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla, gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Spread over cooled cookies.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just Keeps Getting Better and Better...

Hey all,
I hope you like the new look to the blog. It has taken me a little while to learn how to be so tech-savvy, but I really like the way it looks now. Watch out for new improvements including recipes, pictures, polls, etc. And don't forget to comment, we love to hear from you.

Now for some updates. My mom, dad, and I travelled to Washington, D.C. June 24th for the NFIB Young Entrepreneur Awards Luncheon. We had a great time there, and I enjoyed meeting the other five winners from across the nation. You may have seen articles about the scholarship in The Frontiersman or the Anchorage Daily News. If you missed them, you can check them out under the "In the News" section to the left. Winning this scholarship was a truly amazing experience for me, but I want to thank all of you, my customers, for making it possible. No business can be successful without customers!

I haven't written much on this blog, but I'm hoping the new look will atone for that. So that you get used to my writing style, I'll point out a few differences between myself and my mother. She will tell you about how much she loves the vegetables and how she likes to saunter through the garden to see the progress of the vegetables at 5 am. Don't get me wrong, I love growing vegetables and I really love agriculture. I just enjoy cruising by the vegetables on our ATV at a whopping speed of 4 miles per hour and checking them out on the fly. I think my mother might actually cry when she eats our produce sometimes, because she feels like she is devouring her babies. Not so with me. I love eating our produce. Check out what I ate for dinner tonight:
I'm excited to say that everything you see is Alaska Grown! We had excellent halibut that my dad caught, a green salad, green beans, cucumber salad, zucchini and tomato gratin (get the recipe here, courtesy of South Anchorage Farmer's Market), and of course, a glass of rhubarb lemonade.
This was my dessert. It was supposed to be strawberry ice cream, but it turned out more like strawberries and cream. Still very delicious though, thanks to Arthur Keyes and his homegrown Alaskan strawberries!

The vegetables are growing well, and we're very excited about how well they've been selling! At the Friday Market in Palmer my cousin Sara and I were kept very busy helping customers, and that's the way we like it. Everything is coming along well, and the only thing we really don't enjoy is weeding. My employees and I were joking that we even learn a little science at work as we tried to start a siphon to water the vast amounts of rhubarb my mother has planted. Everything is growing quickly, and we're having fun harvesting.

Well, I must go and feed my animals now. I hope to post again soon and start sharing some of our favorite family recipes and uploading pictures, but for now, I hope to see you all at the Market!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Watering, watering...

What a week this has been for a garden lover!! This warm weather has really made things leap. As in all good things, this weather presents some challenges. The first that comes to mind is keeping things watered. This could be a full time job for one person except I don't have one person who can dedicate their time to watering, so it is like an juggling act, keeping all water going somewhere at all times. I have two wells to draw form here, our well for our house and our well at the barn. The first thing I so when I get up in the morning it to hook up water somewhere in the gardens and then water all my flower beds and hanging baskets. The flower watering takes at least half an hour. Then I put the sprinkler on the lawn and keep it moving around the yard all day long. Down in the gardens I have four different runs of drip tape that I hook up to the water and change every day. I also have to put the sprinkler on the carrots, onions, turnips, spinach and beets. The peas have weep hoses and there are two runs of peas. Then there are the garden pots to hand water with the hose and the seedling trays to hand water. My parents are on vacation and I have watering to do at their place while they are gone. Now you can see why I think watering around here is like keeping many of balls in the air at one time!

I'm really not complaining about the watering. After last summer, I was dying to have to water! Watering keeps me in touch with everything in the garden. As I move the hose for the sprinkler, I inspect the carrots and discover that they may be big enough to pull for next week's markets. As I hook up the drip tape in the corn patch to my amazement there are corn silks already! Hooking up the weep hose on the peas I discover the first fat pods, open them and pop those sweet morsels in my mouth. As I water the flower beds I marvel at the variety of dahlias that are almost ready to bloom--eye candy to go with the tasty peas. What could be better? I would love to write more, but I just got home from the Friday market in Palmer and guess what? I have been gone all day and there is watering to be done, a lot of it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Our family left for a long 4th of July weekend last Thursday. For over 20 years we have packed up and gone to Lake Louise. I guess you could say that this is one of our most cherished traditions and just because I am currently infected with a bad case of garden fever, there was no way I was going to miss it! It was hard to bid goodbye to my garden for four days, but with four darling grandchildren bidding me to come play at the cabin and lake, it wasn't much of a sacrifice.
The weather at Lake Louise was hot and sunny and when I got home Sunday evening, it was obvious that it had been the same here!

Everything in the gardens had grown like it was on steroids! I spent about three hours Sunday evening watering a little here and there, but mostly just marveling at the growth in the garden! There were some sweet surprises! Peeking at me on the hillside garden were snowy heads of cauliflower! Where did they come from? They weren't due for at least another week! The large onions were bulbing up enough to make an appearance at this week's markets and flat pods of peas are promising to fill out in time for next week's. The biggest treat of all was finding corn silks in the corn patch--a promise that this year will indeed be a corn year!

Leaving the garden for a few days makes me reallize how quickly things can grow with 22 hours of daylight! Do I love gardening in Alaska or what?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Harvest Fever

After a full day of harvesting for our first Anchorage market of the year I should be exhausted, but to tell the truth I am too excited to be tired. I get that way about gardening sometimes. My daughters say I am possessed and perhaps they're right. But gardening doesn't seem to take my energy, it gives me energy.

Rachel and I started at 8:00 am with a list of what we wanted to harvest for the market. Sara, my niece who works with us, joined us about 9:30 and minus a twenty minute lunch break we worked as fast and furious as we could until 4:30. For me it was exciting to see how much produce was ready for harvest this final day of June! All three of us marveled at the great basket of broccoli which was overflowing with six in crowns! Never before has that happened for us in June! Then there was the green onions! We had decided to pick everything from the first planting, but when Sara came back to the wash rack with over 100 bunches I was astounded! They were beautiful, but needed cleaned so Rachel and Sara spent the next hour with their hands in the water but it was a lovely day and there was not a whisper of complaint. As they worked on washing the onions I kept coming back with something new I had harvested and raved about each new vegetable. The turnips were so gorgeous and worm free! I don't believe we've ever grown better turnips! The kohlrabi were so large and yet so good. I had to peel one of the largest on the spot and we all ate crisp wedges exclaiming at how good it was--our first taste of the season! The spinach too is the best I've ever grown! I usually have trouble with it bolting, but this was big and curly leafted and beautiful. Then there was the colorful chard and the bright red lettuces and even heads of iceberg lettuce.

I think the greatest record we broke with this harvest was the cabbage! The heads are already hard and I have never heard of cabbage in June!

One minor failure and disappointment is the pototoes. I really thought I'd have new potatoes to dig today. I certainly worked had enough on them. We planted them in small pots in the greenhous in early April. The first of May we transplanted them under IRT, green plastic mulch. That gave them a great head start and the plants are huge. I thought there would be potatoes under them, but after pulling three palnts and feeling around under numerous others I have to conclude that I did not accomplish potatoes in June! Oh well, with so many other garden successes, I am not going to let the lack of potatoes to get me down. It was a great day and I am looking forward to the market in the morning. If I wake up early enough I will cut some flowers and make a few boquets to brighten our booth, but with all the lovely produce they won't really be needed!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cabbage In June and 100 Rhubarb Plants

Today I spent planting a rhubarb patch. A friend and partner of mine, Bruce Bush offered to give me one of his old rhubarb plants. He planted it about 30 years ago and he warned me that it was huge and I would get alot of rhubarb starts from it. I picked it up on Tuesday morning. Lucky for me I took the pickup because he had to load the monster into the back with the front loader of his tractor! I kid you not, that plant was the size of a large table! Today was the first chance i had time to attack the chore of splitting and planting the starts. Did I say attack? Well, that is exactly what I had to do! I hacked those mammoth roots apart with a sharp shovel. Some of those rootes were three feet long and five inched wide at the top! By noon I had managed to get what I hope were viable starts divided and so I loaded them into my trailer and headed across the creed to plant them in a freshly plowed piece of ground. Two weeks ago I had planted my first 20 plants and they were all living, so I hope this will be a good location. I planted and planted and planted! I couldn't believe it, but there were over 80 starts from that one old rhubarb plant! With my first twenty, I now have 100 rhubarb plants in the ground! I feel like a big time rhubarb farmer now! I will have to be patient because these won't produce until next year and not really come into their own for two years.

I love to just walk through the gardens and look at everything. I spend way too much time just looking and marveling at how everything is growing, but it is one of the great joys of being a gardener. I never know what surprises I may find. Last Thursday there were surprise broccoli crowns--definitely the earliest I've ever grown. Today I found several hard heads of cabbage! That is even more unusual that the broccoli. I have never managed to get cabbage in June. Tomorrow I will cut my first head and see if it is indeed solid all the way through.

Our first Anchorage market is this Wednesday. Oh how I long to be able to take in new baby potatoes! I am not sure if they are done yeat and I will resist the temptation to go and pull one of those green plants up and check underneath until Tuesday. Wouldn't that be something--new potatoes on July 1?

My greenhouse is just about to give us our first slicing tomatoes. We are now eating our cherry Sugar Lumps, but I always count the first day we eat BLTs as the first tomato day. This year I am experimenting with growing the tomatoes and cucumbers with a semi-hydroponic system. I am having my ups and downs. experiencing some different nutritional problems in the plants, but the plants look fantastic and I have never had so many fruits made this early. Some plants already have seven hands of tomatoes set on! It is really unfortuante that I don't live green tomatoes I could eat all I wanted right now. I will have to be patient and wait for the ripe ones.

The corn is starting to tassel. i must get it suckered right away--good job for Monday. Speaking of Monday, it is rapidly approaching Sunday so this farm lady had better sign off. After all, I've had a busy day planting rhubarb and admiring my gardens.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Blog Re-vamp

Hey there,

Mom is in Boston this week visiting Melissa and the newest grandbaby, Elsie. So that means I've decided to take over this blog and make it more attractive. Oh, and write on it. That's been my goal for a while, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I find the art of blogging intriguing-- it's like journalism, but online. I'm going to start practicing so I can get the hang of it. I guess it will give me a taste of what an Ag Communications major would actually do.

So the gardens are all pretty well planted in. It's nice to have that done, and the first few weeks of June we're almost just waiting for the plants to grow! The garden gets greener every day. Tomorrow we're selling Bak Choi, Mizuna, and Radishes to Arthur Keyes and Alaska Root Cellars. We also have a little lettuce coming up.

This week I have to water the Greenhouse while Mom is gone. This is totally foreign to me- it's like a jungle in there and I have to be careful not to over-water the cucumbers, but not to under-water the tomatoes. I guess our cukes are being finicky and dying. It's too bad, because I'm dying to eat them! I'm dying for a fresh BLT as well, but I'll have to wait a while for that.

In other vegetable-related news, Mom, Dad, and I are headed to Washington D.C. in two weeks for a luncheon celebrating young entrepeneurship. I applied for the NFIB Young Entrepeneur Scholarship last December, but I didn't think much of it. I got a letter that I was a semi-finalist in March, which was exciting, but I still didn't think much of it because I knew they gave out only 50 awards (mostly for $1000, but the finalists got $5000). Then, just as school was ending, I got an email that I had been named as a finalist, so I receive $5000! But, even better than that, the winner receives an additional $5000, and NFIB and Visa are flying my parents and I to D.C. for a luncheon where the finalists will be honored and the winner will be announced. It's all very exciting, I had to be interviewed several times, and send pictures, and I bought a new dress to wear while we're there. It is funny that we'll only be there one day, we spend more time getting there and back than we do enjoying D.C.! But it's still going to be very fun. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to have this business, and I really want to thank Amy for starting the whole thing in the first place!

While that's about all I have for now. I'll update this more soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sowing Seeds

I promised myself all winter that I was going to create a blog for my garden. Yesterday as I was sowing seeds I decided that since I have now been working with the dirt and plants for nearly two months now that the time was right. I am not sure that anyone will ever find or read this blog, but I plan on using it as a diary for our farm business. Again, it would have been good to have started two months ago, but better late than never (how cliche!)

So, yesterday I did sow some seeds and that is significant because I sowed them outside and it was April 18th. Now, I have never planted anything that early outside, even when we have had warm springs and this does not qualify as a warm spring. Nonetheless, I had the urge and some half-barrels filled with soil situated against my greenhouse just were too tempting and I planted radishes. Who knows if they will grow--I'll keep you posted.

I am doing some other experimenting which seems crazy. I planted some turnips and beets in cell packs in the greenhouse. I don't know if it will work, I've never heard of anyone transplanting root crops before, but there is not much to loose in trying.

I have actually been in my greenhouse for a week and a half now. It is filling up with hanging baskets, bedding plants, trays of onions and celery, and seed trays of other veggies. I have my starting room, a new addition on our house, filled with tomatoes, cucumbers and squash starts. I have also seeded a couple of trays with bush beans in hopes of coaxing some eary green beans for the June markets.