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?