I’m not growing anything illegal, I swear!

Pots, not pot

This week I got my first seeds started indoors!   I don’t have a good south-facing window so I rigged up a little bit of lighting.   I have no idea if this will actually work, but I decided to give it a try!  I want to add to my herb garden, so that’s what I’m growing right now.  I love having fresh herbs out on my balcony — I grew chives and thyme and parsley out there last summer and they are thriving.  (See pic below.)  I have been using all 3 in recipes all winter long.  I also love dill, sage, cilantro and rosemary so those are going to be added to the herb garden this year.  I’ve got 4 dill seeds in one pot under lights and 4 sage in the other.  After these guys sprout and I move them outside, I’ll start another round of veggie seeds in the little pots.

Herbs, not herb


Pictures of “my” farm!


At Betsey's farm: garlic field in front, vineyards behind

I brought my camera along yesterday when I went and spent the day with Betsey.  So here are a couple of shots of the scenery and animals there at the Day Road farm, where I’ll be living and working starting in April.

It’s been great working there so far, kind of like being in school except the classes are something along the lines of: 10am-1pm prune grapevines; 1-2pm coffee and lunch break at Rolling Bay Cafe (Betsey: “This is pretty much what we do  – go for coffee and talk about farming”); 2-3pm plant onion seeds; 3-5pm more pruning.

While we were dropping the onion seeds into the trays of potting mix, Betsey told me some stories about learning to work with draft horses for plowing and mowing hay and such.  She got her instruction in this from some old cowboy types in Montana – one of them named “Bulldog.”  I have lots of horse experience but never done anything like this before and I reallllly cannot wait to check out the harness and plowing equipment and give it a whirl with Sam (Samantha), Betsey’s old Suffolk mare.

Fuzzy! adorable! as yet unnamed 2-year-old Suffolk filly that Betsey bought recently to take over the farm work as Samantha is getting older.   This little one was very curious and wanted to play with me.

Most of the day was spent pruning grapevines in the vineyard.  There are over 12,000 grape vines on the property.  It’s a good thing I don’t have to prune them all because it would take about 12,000 hours… luckily Betsey is about 10 times as fast at it as I am!  Basically what has to be done is chop off last year’s “arms” – the thick wood at the bottom of the plant – and choose two of last year’s thinner canes to become this year’s arms.  The canes that you choose get tied down into a “Y” shape at the bottom of the trellis and the rest of the canes get lopped off and thrown away.  There are many criteria that go into making this choice, so it takes me a while of closeup examination and weighing the options before I decide which canes to chop off and which to leave.  Betsey of course can look at the plant out of the corner of one eye and know exactly what to do and make the cuts all in about 2 seconds flat.  But I had fun and got a couple rows of vines pruned during the afternoon.

future wine

Rows of grape vines to prune

On the downside of the day…. lest I give the impression that everything is idyllic and perfect… at the end of the day I got a closer look at the house where I and the other apprentices will be living for the season.  It is pretty old and decrepit and needs a *lot* of fixing up and cleaning before it is going to be liveable.  So I have my work cut out for me there for the next couple months.  To close, here are a few more images from the farm!

bees and seeds

Urban farming

I’m moving out of the city to go work on a farm, but it turns out you don’t have to. Urban farming is a burgeoning movement here in Seattle and all around the country.  Seattle mayor Mike McGinn has even declared 2010 to be the “year of urban agriculture” here.

Last night I went to a talk by Will Allen, the founder of Growing Power, a successful urban farm in Milwaukee, WI. Will reiterated the importance of growing more food where people live instead of trucking it all in from rural farms. A quote: “We need 50 million more people growing food, on porches, in pots, in side yards.” The concept is apparently taking off in Detroit as well, a city with plenty of vacant land to spare right now.

Here in Seattle, I’ve been working with an amazing group of people called Harvest Collective, which is one of several groups doing urban farming in our city. They form partnerships with landowners in the city in which the group grows food on many properties and the property owners each get a share of the collective harvest. If I wasn’t moving out to Bainbridge, I would be joining this group as a full member, and perhaps I will when I’m done with the apprenticeship. For the moment I’ve been volunteering with them a little bit and enjoying spending time with them.

I don’t necessarily believe *all* of what we eat can or even should come from our own city, but certainly some amount can. There are so many benefits: putting empty backyards to functional use, enjoying extremely fresh and local veggies/fruit/eggs, cutting down on food transportation costs, and allowing people to live in the city and still do agriculture.

All the ingredients are there: people with land, people who want to grow food, and people who want to eat locally-grown food. With enough momentum, we could start to see a really fundamental shift in the way our food system works in cities. It’s exciting to see this happening and to be involved in some small part of it.


Jammy jam

My first time making jam! Made strawberry jam and canned it using a boiling water bath. It was fun and easy.

I had ordered a “canning kit” from Amazon which included a jar lifter, lid lifter, and some other equipment to make the process easier.

Ingredients: crushed strawberries (thawed from frozen), sugar, lemon juice, and pectin.

I forgot to take pics during the jam-making process but here is the final result.


Then I baked some oat/wheat bread (with ground wheatberries from the Nash’s trip!)

Ingredients: bread flour, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat gluten, rolled oats, honey, milk, yeast, butter, and salt.

It turned out pretty well but I’m still going to do some more experimenting .


Delicious homemade bread and jam!

Bread & jam