Sunday, April 19, 2015

Macie's idea of living simply!

The strawberry bed

Here is a pic of what the strawberries looked like last fall:
Strawberries gone wild

This is what happens when you don't cut any of the runners -which you should!  Strawberry plants will stay very productive for about three to four years - if you cut the runners off!  These baby plants weaken the mother plant, so that is why you cut them off as soon as they form.  However, when you are ready to start a new batch for the following spring, you let them go.  if you have the room, you can just let them run and take root.  but I wanted to be a bit more intentional.  so I took the runners and let them run over the side of the bed to pots that I had filled with good soil and put on either side of the bed.  By end of September they were well rooted.  I cut them from the mommy plants, gave them another week, then potted them up into 4" pots.  some had developed such large root systems, I had to use gallon pots!

All these babies went into one of the tomato beds after the plants were all  pulled up for the fall, covered with row cover, and given a good dose of fertilzer and water about every 3-4 weeks.

The old strawberries were pulled up in November and composted.  Then the beds were filled with compost for the winter.

Baby Strawberries ready to plant

With our warm winter, I needed to plant out the new strawberries by the end of January - a bit sooner than I planned, but they were becoming root bound.  when I saw lots of new growth, and a flower bud or two, I knew it was time.

I topped off the beds with about 5 inches of new soil (planting mix from Highway Fuel in Salem) which is a combination of compost and top soil.  I did a soil test, which put the soil right about neutral PH.  since berries like it slightly more acid than that, I mixed in some of my blueberry fertilizer which helps to lower the ph.

 I only planted five plants per section - I don't know what variety these are - they are all from about 10 that a friend gave me 4 years ago.  The variety I had purchased at the nursery were not doing so well, and when she asked me if I wanted some of her humungous, everbearing strawberry plants, I jumped at the chance.  (this is where it is helpful to have lots of gardening friends).

 A thick coating of well-rotted sawdust ( about 18 months old) with some good old Sluggo around the edges...
 Up go my hoops and lots of bird block netting (to keep the cats out)...
 And then the row cover.  It is after all still winter.  About a week after getting this all done, our three weeks of sun and warm weather ended and we had about a month of cold, with a few nights dipping down below freezing.  The row cover kept everything nice and warm.  I did have to unclip it during the day when it was sunny so it wouldn't get too hot.  Plus, that darn Puppy (one of our cats) figured out how to get past the netting and under the row cover.  He is very aware of how warm it is under the row covers on a cold sunny day!

If I take the row cover off before going to work, he won't get in there.
 First strawberry blooms opened mid-March - and now in April I have lots of blooms and many little strawberries ready to grow and ripen.
The great thing about saving all the strawberry plants the runners put off is that I had a total of over 90 starts that survived the winter.  I only used 25.  the rest went to two families in Washington and three families here in Salem. 

When you grow your own berries, you not only feed yourself, family and friends, you also have plants that you can share with others.  I dig up all the starts of berries around my patch and give them away.  2014-15 I have given away over $100 of berry plants to friends and neighbors.  So remember that when you are planting this year.  All those volunteers next fall can go to a good home and help to feed others. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

If you are visiting for the first time and looking for info on raised beds, check back through the history and some of the older posts.  I have built some more, but don't have the pics ready to post yet.  working on it!  Any questions, let me know and I will try to point you in the right direction.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Now is the time to read seed catalogs ( excellent references!) and plan your 2015 garden.  A new one that came my way in yesterday's mail is very exciting:  Select Seeds - Rare Heirloom Seeds and plants (  One plant I am definitely getting seeds for is Polygonum orientale - Kiss me over the garden gate.  It was used in the cottage garden, attracts pollinators and beneficials, 
grows 4-5' tall, and is great as a cut or dried flower.  I have the perfect place for it and can't wait to try it out!
Another plant I am excited to try is a scented Geranium, "Mabel Grey" - which the catalog says has an intense lemon fragrance. Scented Geranium's can be used in cooking, making teas, syrups, in biscuits, cakes, etc., so I am curious to try this one also.
Pelargonium Citronellum Mabel Grey

And I plan on purchasing several plants of Geranium "Skeleton Rose" - to take advantage of its ability to repel mosquitoes! 

I can't afford to buy all the plants I would like to, but now that my infrastruture is almost done, I will draw up this month a garden plan, and make a 5-yr plan on what to buy when.

There is so much to do in the next 8 weeks.  Besides starting seeds (must get in my Territorial order!), I have beds to prepare!  My wonderful helper Amanda just dug the hole for the last fruit tree I planned to order.  and just in time!  The Raintree Nursery catalog came in the mail today - and the tree I wanted was finally in there.  Last year, they didn't have any three-tier Espalier trees that were different varieties - just all one variety.  I was worried that I would have to look elsewhere.  Then the catalog arrived, I flipped open to the apple section, and there it was - A 3-tier espalier with Liberty, Ashmead's Kernal, and Pristine.  Although when I went to order it, it didn't have Pristine as the third apple, but instead Spartan - which is fine with me since it is from the McIntosh Family and I am a fan of those.  So in a small space, I will have four different types of apples (not forgetting my crab apple) - which should be enough for fresh eating, pies, applesauce and jelly for our family.  I can't wait till it comes.  the hole is dug, fresh compost is settling in nicely, all against the fence that will eventually give it support.  
A slightly fuzzy example of espaliered trees

My reading this month also includes a reprint of Gertrude Jekyll's "Wood and Garden, Notes and Thoughts, practical and critical, of a working amateur.  First published in 1899, it is a treasure of her thoughts and notes on gardening, planting, what to plant, etc.  In the February chapter, she introduced me to a new possible flower for the flower portion of the garden; "Tiarella cordifolial".

Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolial) in the summer
Gertrude says that the leaves show bright coloring in the winter, turning to scarlet, crimson and orange. She also recommends Berberis Aquifoluim for winter color; we know it here in the Northwest as Oregon Grape.  What is interesting is that here is Gertrude Jekyll writing over a hundred years ago, in England, of a plant that is a native for us here in the Northwest.  She is a strong advocate for including varieties of this plant in any garden plan. 

My son Aaron, who is a garden designer for Stone Soup Gardens in Seattle ( is also a huge fan of Oregon Grape.  I think they put it in a lot of the rain gardens they design. 

My helper Amanda has made a good start on preparing our tools for spring.  She has been sanding down the wooden handles and then coating them with paste wax - getting ready for another season.  We still have to finish that project, sharpen the shovels, and put on another coat of rustoleum paint (I use bright red to find them easily in the yard).

So January continues, cold and foggy, but inside things are heating up with orders to nurseries and seed catalogs, time spent over the drafting board.  I even had a chance to check out a you-tube video on thatching (I do have to roof my new tool shed).  When you are a gardener, there is never any down time!

Monday, January 5, 2015

It has been about a year since I have posted - a lot going on.  My daughters heart condition was worsening steadily over the last year.  In November she had open heart surgery to install an LVAD - a heart pump to assist her left ventricle.  she will keep that until she gets on the list for a heart transplant.

So, hope everyone has been gardening and growing and is excited about SPRING which is just a few weeks away (in gardener mindthink).  I received my first seed catalog (Thank you Territorial) on Christmas Eve - what a great present!

I will try to post some pics soon.  My computer died, and I have a new one but all my pics are somewhere on a spare drive.  I have almost finished the front of the yard, planted fruit trees, and started to apply permaculture principles with dead wood swales and hugelkulter - so keep tuned for that.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Really quick update

Shortly after my last post (May 29th)  I fell in my bedroom and broke my foot - or ankle, or - it hurt like &*$&%(  - the ambulance drivers thought it was just a sprain - I knew something was broken.  so, turned out that my stumble caused my tibia to split from the ankle joint up a few inches, and three toe bones to break up by the joint.

9 weeks off work with my foot in a cast and up - watching my beautiful garden become overgrown from lack of care.  I did find friends and family to pick raspberries and marionberries.  Cucumbers didn't make it, as well as some of the herbs I had just purchased - lack of water.  We had a mass of tomatoes, mainly from not being able to get out there and pick off the suckers.

Started back to work August 1st, but still pretty tired from the injury, so have been sleeping a lot.  Just now starting to get back some of my energy.  And tackling much needed projects around the yard.

So may have some pics soon.

Woven throughout all of this were over a dozen appointments for my daughter up at the Oregon Health Science University to determine what was going to be done about her heart.  we found out last week that she has been accepted as a candiate for a heart transplant.  they can't list her until she loses about 12 pounds.  Not that easy to do, when you are hardly eating anything anyway, and don't have the energy to get around much.  so need a miracle in that area.

When not trying to catch up with the outside, I have been inside trying to finish the back bedroom ( the master bedroom) for my daughter.  Have been wanting to move her into that room for over a year - she needs the room for all her books and stuff, and it is closer to the bathroom.  :)  Very important when you are on a diuretic.  So it seems that every waking minute is filled with either working in the garden, yard, or painting, patching, building on the inside.  Not much time for computer stuff.

So I have been around - just laid up most of the summer.  It was kind of weird - this is the first year in many, many years when I have not canned anything!  (kind of hard to do from a wheelchair).  Perhaps in a month or so I can post some pics of what I have been up to.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Living Simply

A tumultuous year is behind me, and another one is ahead.

November 2011 I received a layoff notice, ending the job  I had been going to for 9+ years.  I started taking St. Johns Wort right away.

April 2012 I started a new job ( at the same state agency) - but working for a previous supervisor that I had had a contentious relationship with.  He had not changed any.  Stress level went way up. still taking St. Johns Wort.

December 2012 - Governors budget came out, and our agency was only on it for one year - guess what that meant?  Yep - our agency was probably being shut down -no ones job was safe.

February 2013 - My daughter went in for one of the many tests that she routinely has to have with her heart condition.  Found out that her heart had become much worse, and her cardiologist was referring her for a heart transplant.  she is not sure that is what she wants, but at least is going along that path for now.

April 8, 2013 - finally some good news!  I started a new job, at another state agency, but this one with secure funding, doing something I really enjoy.  But, still taking St. Johns Wort.

Since March, besides getting a new job, our lives have been filled with Dr. visits.  There are many, many tests that you have to go through to find out if you are a candidate for a heart transplant.  Jess started going to the severe heart failure clinic in Portland - an hour drive away from our home.  Every two weeks we met with them, and along the way, there were in-hospital tests, out patient tests, lab tests - and the she was referred to OHSU - which is the primary hospital for heart transplants in the NorthWest.  Yesterday was our first meeting with one of the doctors from the heart transplant team.  Since we were up there anyway, and I had the day off of work, we packed in more tests that her doctors had ordered, labs, chest x-rays, immunizations and pulmonary breathing test.

We came home exhausted and I at least went to bed and slept for 10 hours.

When facing situations like this, it is best to simplify your life as much as possible.  For me, that has meant scaling back on my garden this year.  I don't know where we will be in the transplant process in the fall, when I am normally going nuts canning beans.  So I didn't plant beans this year.  And I have enough canned beans from last year to get me through another year if I don't eat beans every day.

I have planted tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.  And of course, the berries are coming on wonderfully - but I will probably give away what we can't eat fresh.  With a new job, and all the doctor and clinic visits, there just won't be time for the normal rhythm of growing, picking and canning.  And I don't even want to try.

So my work outside will be on adjusting infrastructure - working on the chicken house - things that I can do that if I have to walk away from the task for a few weeks, I can.  So I will be living as simply as possible for the next year.

I am glad that new visitors to this blog can still get instructions on how to create a raised bed, improve their soil structure  grow vegetables and fruit to feed their families and neighbors.  I am so proud of my children, who are each growing food (some in friends yards as my son in Seattle is doing).  My granddaughter just picked and ate the first peas that her parents are growing in the community garden they belong to at OSU in Corvallis.  At the end of the day, it is a simple joy to prepare your dinner with foods you have grown yourself, or bought from farmers in the area.

The need to live simply for awhile is sometimes brought upon by disaster, like those fellow Americans in OK who lost so much in the storms of life.  When you are reduced down to nothing by a few minutes of wind, it gets real.  What is really important?  In this past year of living with the change in job, then the imminent loss of my job, and the sharp reminder of my daughters mortality  - again, having a life that is already simplified as much as possible is important.  The yearly rhythm of planting, harvesting, preserving - even though scaled down, helps to keep my life in perspective.

I am sad to not blog as much as I was, but not apologetic.  I will post when I can.  I have a thread on growing carrot seed that I hope to post later this summer.  If you don't hear from me in awhile, it is because I am spending what precious free time I have in the garden - when not visiting doctors, clinics, or working.  And, I will keep taking St. Johns Wort.

My thoughts go out to all of you who are endeavoring in your own way to live simple lives...


for more info on St. Johns Wort:
And always let your dr know when you start taking an herbal supplement - I cleared taking this with my pharmacist first to make sure there would be no problems.  But my daughter could never take it, as it would interfere with her heart medications.  So always a good idea to check with your doctor or pharmacist first.