12 September 2011

Harvesting Hops

One of Willis' coworkers invited us over to harvest their hops.  We will harvest ours later this week and Willis will probably brew this weekend.
Cascade, Nugget, Mt. Hood, Chinook, Kent Golden.

08 September 2011

Summer tacos

Tonight's dinner menu is tacos! With tomatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic - all from our summer garden.

03 September 2011

21 August 2011

McNeil Point

Our good friend, Chris, was recently in town to fill his stomach with Voodoo doughnuts, ride bikes through the west hills, and backpack up the mountain.  Originally, we had planned on going to a place we had been before which included a short hike in to set up camp near a lake and then continue on for a long day hike.  However, the day of, we decided on something a little more challenging and chose to go to McNeil Point instead (found in 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington, by William Sullivan).

We started out at the Top Spur trail head.  I have never seen so many cars at a trail head before and was super nervous getting out of the car.  Our dogs don't do well when the trails are swarming with dogs and I was unsure about finding a good place to set up camp.  Fortunately, most of the folks were day hikers, few dogs, and there are many trail options that the whole hike up didn't seem too crowded.  The beginning of the hike is through a forested area with tons of huckleberry bushes.  The trail eventually curves around Bald Mountain and opens up with a beautiful view of Mt. Hood and tons of wildflowers, where we ate lunch.  

The trail then re-enters the forest until it opens up again to a meadow with a couple ponds.  We looked around this area, to set up camp, but didn't find any place that satisfied us and continued on.  I am so glad we did.

After the ponds, the trail continues to climb.  There were a few small snow fields that covered the trail, but nothing too treacherous.  At this point, due to the amazing weather, we had great views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.  We followed the ridge up through Cairn Basin, looking for campsites along the way, until we found the perfect one.

About 5 miles in, we found two campsites with views of all 4 peaks and overlooking a valley of hills.  I stayed at camp with Bandit, while Willis, Chris, and Banjo continued on for another half mile or so to the shelter at McNeil Point.

While they were gone, the clouds started rolling over.  Fortunately, the rolled right through and by the time they returned, we were well above the clouds for the rest of the evening, playing cards, eating s'mores, and enjoying the sunset over the valley.

The hike out was quick, but still filled with amazing views.

10 July 2011

Home Grown Shiitakes

We recently purchased a shiitake kit from Fungi Perfecti. I figured it'd be a great way to fuel my mushroom obsession until the fall chanterelle season starts.

The kit is pretty easy to take care of, and we've already had a good fruiting (around half a pound). It should last about 16 weeks and fruit every couple of weeks before it's done fruiting, but I'm planning on getting a few more kits before that. I'm looking forward to a steady supply of mushrooms and transforming a portion of our house into a micro fungi farm!

09 July 2011

Teagan 1.0

One whole year:  already been to two continents, eight countries, and five states.
What will year 2.0 bring?  Disney World?!


08 July 2011

Red Currants

Last year, we planted two currant plants.  One red and one white.  The red ones are starting to ripen for the season.  Last year, I made some scones and added some currants to lemonade.  This year, I found a recipe for red currant and fennel muffins.  The recipe says to soak the oats but them doesn't add them in during the instructions, I improvised and added them to the eggs and oil.  I added in strawberries from the garden, cinnamon, a little bit more sugar, and used some of our fennel leaves instead of seeds.  I used mason jars instead of a muffin pan, so they took a little longer in the oven, due to their size.  They'd be even more delicious with chocolate chips.

Red Currant, Strawberry & Fennel Muffins

1 cup milk
1 cup instant oats
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp fennel
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup red currants
1/2 cup strawberries

Line a 12 muffin tin or mason jars or grease it with butter. Soak the oats in the milk for 15 minutes. Beat the eggs with the oil in a large bowl and add in the soaked oats. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside enough of the dry mixture to coat the currants. Mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until combined then add in the fennel and cinnamon. Mix the currants and berries into the reserved dry mixture first so they are coated and then gently fold this mixture into the batter. Fill the muffin pan or jars with the batter evenly distributed between the 12. Bake for 20 minutes at 425F.

06 July 2011

Serene Lake, Pyramid Lake & the Roaring River Wilderness

This past weekend, we attempted to backpack our way to the Serene Lake in the Mt. Hood National Forest.  We left Portland around 10am and drove towards the trailhead near the Frazier Turnaround.  Unfortunately, the long gravel road also had some snow patches, so we decided to not go any further.  We turned around and drove down to another connecting trailhead at Shell Rock Lake.
After passing Shell Rock Lake and starting our ascent, the trail was basically a creek, due to the amount of snow melt.  We ran into a family hiking with their JRT and they were on their way down after losing the trail due to snow levels.  We decided to try our luck and continued on.  They were right, the snow levels were out of control.  In previous years, these trails have been snow free during the early summer months, but we'll need a few more hot days to help clear them out this year.

We followed the blazes on the trees until we hit the Frazier Turnaround and our original starting point, the Serene Lake trailhead.  There was a nice campsite with a park bench, so we stopped for lunch.  This clearing, and knowing we were starting to descend gave us a little hope that we would get to Serene Lake after all.  After lunch, we started going again from blaze to blaze.  When we stopped seeing noticable trail markings on trees, we started flagging our way, just in case we want to turnaround.

We eventually made that decision.  As we headed back, we met another group with a JRT who had also made the grueling hike up through the snow, only to decide to turn around.  We hiked back to Shell Rock Lake to post up for the night.  Although it was crowded during the day, as the evening rolled around many of the families who were there for the day headed out and it ended up being a really nice and quiet spot with a few camp fires spotted in the distance.  While Willis fished in a fishless lake, the pups and I soaked up the remaining sun rays.

We hiked out on Sunday morning and went to find another place to set up for the night.  After helping a stranded camper get back to a campsite so he could get help with his truck, we drove to Pyramid Lake.  It was another rough gravel road, but this time it wasn't covered in snow.  It was a short hike up to the lake, where we dropped our packs and scoped out the scene.  We were hoping for some hiking trails to spend the day on, but the overgrown trail just circled the lake.  After the dogs and I soaked up more sun and Willis attempted to fish in another fishless lake, we decided to head back to town a night early. 

Overall, it was a good weekend.  I'd like to go back in August or September when the trails are a little more clear and hiking one mile doesn't feel like hiking three. 

30 June 2011


We planted strawberries around our plum and dogwood trees last year, with the (false) hope that the dogs would stay out of them.  They are not in raised beds, so of course like most things in our lives, they have gone to the dogs, both literally and non-.  They are also one of the Scrub-Jays' favorite meals.

They are one of Banjo's favorite places to run after she catches the frisbee.  She also loves our neighbor's dog and spends time pacing at the fence trying to go play.  And now that Bandit is off his long-line, he has discovered that there are so many new smells over there.

But despite all the trampling by the dogs, pecking by the birds, and damage caused by slugs, they are doing fairly well.  Every day, I pick about a half cup to a cups worth of ripened strawberries.  They are so sweet, I love them. 

Mostly, I just eat them whole, but earlier this week, I made some lemonade with strawberries.  So good. 

Now, if only these clouds would go away, so I could sip some ice cold lemonade in the sun like a real summer...

07 June 2011

Shi Shi Beach to Lake Ozette

This post will help any of you interested in doing this 3 day coastal hike.  Thanks to Langley and Ruth, we have some amazing pictures from our most recent trip.  Willis and I accidentally left our camera at home.

While planning for our Memorial Day weekend trip, Langley suggested going to Shi Shi Beach, in the Olympic Peninsula.  After some searching, I found Kevin Yang's posts about this trip.  Due to certain restrictions around permit reservations we decided to do the hike backwards, starting at Shi Shi Beach and ending at Lake Ozette.  It was an amazing and kind of challenging hike.  Lots of steep trails with rope assists to climb, seaweed covered rocks to scramble, and one river to ford (plus some other wading depending on the tides).

Prior to doing this hike, we needed to get*:
- a Makah Recreation Pass (since some of the hike is on the Makah Indian Reservation) - purchased at the General Store in Neah Bay
- a Wilderness Camping Permit as well as make a reservation  - you can call ahead and pick permits up from the Olympic Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles
- a hard-sided bear canister (if you don't already own one) - you can rent them from the WIC.
- a tide table - also available at WIC.  This is important because you can only pass the headlands when the tide is low.  You don't want to get caught at high tide.
- a map - you can get one from REI.  Almost always essential for backpacking new areas, a map is a good way to find water sources.

*On our first day of hiking, a park ranger stopped us to make sure we had our permits and bear canisters.

What we should have also made sure to have:
- water shoes - I had my Chacos.  Everyone else waded in their hiking shoes.  Although I had no problems with my sandals, it would have been nice to have close-toed water shoes, like Keens, while wading along the rocky coast or fording the river.

31 May 2011

Homemade Tofu Jerky

In case you were wondering, the granola bars held up perfectly on the trail.  3 days in a crammed pack and they didn't crumble, melt, or lose their delicious flavor.

Another homemade delight we brought with us, and try to bring with us on our backpacking trips (if I make time to make them before we leave), is homemade jerky.  Tofu jerky.  This is another recipe that I've made many different ways.  I always use the dehydrator, but have tried different types of marinades, from store bought to homemade.  The most recent one I made was based off of this recipe.  I forgot to add in some honey, which would have helped with the saltiness.  But regardless, it was still pretty good.

Homemade Tofu Jerky

1 package extra firm tofu
1/8 c. soy sauce
1/8 c. teriyaki sauce
1/4 c. Bragg's Liquid Aminos
4 tbsp liquid smoke
1/8 c. water
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tsp honey (which I forgot)
you could continue to add or substitute a variety of spices to your liking.

1. Drain and slice the tofu, keep in mind that it will shrink a decent amount.
2. Place all the slices into a deep dish.
3. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and pour over the tofu slices.
4. Marinate in the fridge overnight.
5. Place the tofu slices on the dehydrator and dehydrate until chewy (time will depend on your dehydrator).

You can save the left over marinade and re-use it for more jerky. 

Currently Listening To:

26 May 2011

Homemade Granola Bars

I think I finally did it.  I think I finally made the (almost) perfect granola bar.  They haven't been trail tested yet, but I have a feeling they will pass the test (i.e. not super melt, fall to pieces, be too sticky, and still be delicious).  We'll be backpacking in the Olympic National Park this coming weekend, so I will let you know how they do.

But for now, in the comfort of my own home, they are perfect.  I started making granola bars about 3 years ago when my sister introduced me to this Energy Bar recipe.  These bars were really good, but I couldn't eat a lot of them.  They had a little too much honey for me.  They were also super sticky and turned to mush on the trail.  

The best thing about homemade granola bars, is that you can alter them to your liking.  Do you prefer dried fruits? Chocolate? Do you go nuts over nuts? Over the past few years, I've made several different versions (combining several different recipes), but most of the time resort to store bought bars for long backpacking trips.  Until now....I hope.

I wanted to cut back on the honey taste, so I substituted some sugar and molasses.  So, here is the new and improved recipe:

Homemade Granola Bars

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons molasses
3 cups rolled oats (I added some homemade granola as well, because I had it on hand)
1 cup nuts (I used a mix of hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts....again, because I had them)
1 handful of coconut (depending on how much you like...i love the stuff)
ginger powder
1 handful chocolate chips

1.  Combine the butter, sugar, honey, peanut butter, and molasses in a pot and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.
2.  Add in the oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, ginger powder, and any other ingredients you want to add/substitute and mix until evenly coated.
3.  Line a pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper, plastic wrap, or nonstick mat.  I use a Silpat Nonstick Silicone Baking Mat (my oldest sister gave it to me for Christmas one year, I love it.).
4.  Pour the mixture onto your pan and flatten with a spoon.
5.  Place the chocolate chips throughout the mixture.
6.  Place another layer of plastic wrap over the mixture and use a rolling pin to combine the chocolate chips and evenly flatten the bars.
7.  Put the pan in the fridge.  After an hour, you can cut the bars and store them in the fridge, they should keep for awhile.

I wrapped my most recent batch with parchment paper and rubber bands (I knew I'd find a use for those produce bands).

Currently Listening To:

25 May 2011

Weekly menu: #9

Currently Listening To:

18 May 2011

Canine Good Citizen

Bandit passed his Canine Good Citizen test in October of 2009 while training with the youth at Project Pooch.  Six months later, we adopted him.  A year after that, I finally sent in the paperwork to get his certificate.
The Canine Good Citizen Program is part of the American Kennel Club and rewards dogs for having basic manners using a 10 step test.  The test items include: accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, appearance and grooming, out for a walk, walking through a crowd, sit, down, and stay on command, coming when called, reaction to another dog and distraction, and supervised separation.

I'm not sure exactly how he passed; in a controlled environment he is great at 6.5-7 of these items.  But add Banjo, a squirrel, and me into the mix and it's a whole new adventure.  I'm hoping to one day take a class or two with him to continue his great work and maybe get him into agility or flyball (he loves standing on things and chuck-it).

Here are some places in the Portland area to take CGC classes with your pup:
Oregon Humane Society (offer a 10% discount for shelter dogs)
Club K-9 (this is where we go for daycare and boarding).

Currently Listening To:

17 May 2011

Bronze Fennel

Last year, we purchased a fennel start from Garden Fever.  At the time, it was an impulse buy.  We had never grown fennel before, had no idea what type to buy, or that there was even a difference.  We didn't really touch it throughout the year, and during the rainy fall months and through the (again) rainy winter, we thought we lost it.  But, it's back.  Bigger and better than ever.

It's a bronze fennel plant, and like I said, we didn't know this at the time but it's different than most of the fennel you find at the grocery store.  But, not much different.

The leaves are a darker color and it doesn't bulb as much.  It's a great ornamental and attracts butterflies and birds.  I've also read that it reseeds a little too well and will spread if not controlled.  

The taste and use is very similar.  The whole plant is edible: bulb, stems, leaves, and seeds.  You cook the stems of the bronze fennel, just as you would the bulb.  It's delicious.

We've been doing a lot with the plant over the past few days, and there is still plenty more left in the garden.

Willis made the most delicious sandwich with the stems. I've also been throwing them in with the onions and garlic in almost everything I've been cooking.  And we've dried a lot of the leaves to be used as an herb or a tea.

If you live in the area and would like some dried fennel leaves, let us know!

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15 May 2011

Spruce Tip Ale

The spruce trees are starting to put out new growth, and that means a chance to try making a new homebrew.

I haven't tried a spruce tip ale (either brewing it or drinking it), but I have read good things about them. It's supposed to be a very flavorful beer. It's also nice knowing that at least one ingredient came from near my house and was picked the day before it was used.

Here's the recipe used for a 5 gallon batch. I worked with an employee at Homebrew Exchange to create this recipe. It's a variation on a Pale Ale.

7 lb Light Malt Extract
8.0 oz Cystal Malt 20L
4.0 oz Roasted Barley
1.0 oz Cascade Hops (bittering)
1.0 oz Fuggles Hops (aromatic)
3.o oz Spruce Tips
Wyeast 1098 (British Ale)

Steep the grains at 160F for 30 minutes.
Remove grains and rinse with 2 qt hot water.
Add malt extract.
Bring to boil and add bittering hops and spruce tips.
Add aroma hops at last 2 minutes of boil.
Cool wort to around 75 F.
Add wort and water to fermenter to total 5 gallons.
Pitch yeast.

10 May 2011

As the Bread Rises....

I've been baking a lot of "No Knead" bread lately.  It's super simple.  It takes 2 minutes to mix, 12 hours to rise, 2 minutes to pan, 1.5 more hours to rise, and 30 minutes to bake.  It's great.  You can mix it before you go to bed, then pan it in the morning.  Next, you can get about 2 hours of stuff done, and then enjoy fresh bread 30 minutes later!

What I did today while the bread was in it's second rest stage:

1. Went for a run:  I took the two dogs for a short run around the block.  I am going to attempt (no promises) to get back into running again.  Bandit is a great running partner, he can keep the pace and keep it up.  He loves it.  Banjo on the other hand?  Not so much.  She keeps up for about 400 meters and then starts to draaaaaaaag.  By the end of the run I'm stuck in the middle with one small dog pulling and smiling and the other dragging behind wondering why we're going so fast for "a walk."  In the past, when I've routinely ran, I used mapmyrun.com to map out runs but recently discovered dailymile.com and am considering switching over.  I don't really like how MMR keeps asking me for a premium membership and is swamped with ads.

2. Started to build a fence:  When I returned from my run, I still had plenty of time to get started on a small fence for our garden.  We are hoping to put the gates up within the next month (don't hold your breath).  And when we do, the dogs will be outside unsupervised a lot more, which means we need a better way to make sure they are not getting their dirty little paws in the garden beds.  So, we are putting mini fences around the beds.  Something simple, cheap, not too tacky, and doesn't block a lot of sun.

Currently Listening To:

09 May 2011

Weekly menu: #8

Mini Tortillas with Kale and Garlic Puffs  -  This was basically two appetizers.  I wanted to make a bunch of small things that we could enjoy throughout the week.  I think it only lasted two days.  I lined a muffin pan tortillas, filled with beans, cheese, red pepper and garlic and baked for about 10 minutes at 350F.  For the Puffs, I blended kale, spinach, and chard (all from the garden) with some garlic and added bread crumbs and eggs.  I also baked these on  a greased cookie sheet for about the same amount of time.  I drank Izze Sparkling Grapefruit Soda and Willis enjoyed a homebrew.


Grilled Cheese - Field Roast, avacado, & pepperjack cheese on sourdough bread.

Pizza - I made a Cinco de Mayo Pizza.  I combined refried beans and salsa to create the sauce and topped it off with pepperjack cheese and red peppers.  Willis picked up some Corona on his way home to enjoy with this meal.

Currently Listening To:

07 May 2011

99 Skills Challenge: #22 Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

#22 Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

The 22nd item on Planet Green's 99 Skills list is "Make Your Own Vanilla Extract." They conveniently provide a link to a recipe and some information.

We're almost done with our store bought vanilla extract, so I wanted to get this started, since it takes about 2-3 months to extract.  Vanilla extract is even easier to make than sweetened condensed milk.  You basically cut some vanilla beans add alcohol and wait.  I can't believe no one has ever taught me this stuff before. 

As you use the extract, you can keep replacing the teaspoon or so of liquor. Leaving you with basically a never ending bottle of vanilla! (As long as you always have some liquor on hand...)

I am never buying vanilla extract again...

  • Vanilla beans - 1 bean for every 1/3 cup alcohol.  (I purchased mine in bulk from New Seasons Market for about $1.50/each).  
  • Alcohol - vodka, rum, brandy, etc. (I purchased the cheapest glass bottled vodka in the store $6.80/750ml).
How To:
1. Cut the vanilla beans lengthwise, leaving their ends attached.
2. Place the beans in a glass jar/container and cover with alcohol (I used 3 beans and 1 cup vodka).
3. Store in a cool, dark place for 2 - 3 months and shake every few days.
4. You want to protect the extract from direct sun exposure.  So you can either keep it stored in a dark cabinet but most people recommend filtering and storing it in a dark bottle.

$6.64 for 1 cup of never-ending extract.

If you prefer other extracts in your pantry, you can make others using a similar process, like almond extract.

Click here To read more about my 99 Skills Challenge.

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06 May 2011

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

I love sweetened condensed milk.  If I ever have any left over from a recipe, I put it in my coffee, smoothies, mix it with yogurt, etc.  I needed some for a recipe the other day (dulce de leche ice cream), but didn't have any on hand.  I looked up how to make it at home and found two different ways.  One with liquid milk and one with powdered.  I used this powdered recipe because I needed to save the milk for the ice cream.  It's so easy and AMAZING!  

I am never buying sweetened condensed milk in a can again!

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 cup dry milk
2/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup boiling water

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth (sugar should dissolve).  Place in a container and refrigerate.

Tip:  You can use a regular (not wide mouth) mason/canning jar on most blenders!  Just screw the blade on and blend!  This way you don't have to wash the blender container or transfer your ingredients.  Just screw on a lid and viola!  This is great for smoothies, spices, nuts, and sauces!  I bet an immersion blender would also work for this recipe.  Let me know if you try it!

Currently Listening To:

05 May 2011

Seek-A-Treat Dog Puzzle

 "A tired dog is a happy dog," and a great way to tire a dog out is with a toy that makes them think.

Willis and I have been planning on buying the pups puzzle toys.  I have been looking at puzzle toys online that are around $40 and made of plastic.  Yesterday, I found two dog puzzles on sale at Ross.  I found the Ethical Pet Seek-A-Treat Shuffle Bone Dog Puzzle and the Ethical Pet Seek-A-Treat Flip 'N Flap Dog Puzzle for $10 each.  They were both made of wood and have very little packaging (just a cardboard box).

The dogs figured them out fairly quickly.  I knew they would be easy for Banjo, but had my doubts about 'Dito's intelligence, so we gave him the easier one.  I was hoping it would take them a little longer to figure out.  I plan to only use them every once in awhile so they don't get bored with them too fast and just alternate them with other thinking games, like kongs and hide & seek.

The puzzle slides around a lot on our hardwood floors, but I kind of think that's part of the "challenge,"  I'm sure you could attach some rubber feet onto the bottom or place it on a slipmat to create stability.

These dogs don't do very well with easily destructible things, so I was nervous about them chewing on the wood, especially Bandit.  So far, they haven't attempted too much damage, but I suggest the use of this toy be supervised to prevent chewing damage.  I would imagine if I didn't pick the toy up after the last treat, they would continue to gnaw until there was nothing left.

Overall, for a dog product, they are pretty affordable and semi-entertaining.

Today, I let Bandit try out the harder Flip 'n Flap one while I gave Banjo a Kong.  It took him a little longer to figure it out.

03 May 2011

April Finds: Thrift Stores, Free Boxes, Barters, etc.

1. Metal Measuring Cups & Spoons - I've been wanting to switch over to metal measuring items for awhile.  My plastic ones keep breaking and the numbers always rub off.  I found these for 2 dollars along with a metal apple slicer for 99 cents. (I've broken so many plastic ones). $3.

2. Mini Cow - Remember the cow I found last month?  Well, when we saw this baby cow at New Seasons, we had to get it. $2.

3. Beer Stein - Willis bought this stein for himself because it had his favorite thing on it: images of deer in forests, "a 10 point buck in a sweet alpine meadow," to be exact. $?.

4. Spice Rack - I found this rack in a free box.  We don't need a spice rack but I thought it would look amazing with baby plants and animals.  I was right. FREE.

5. Plant pots - Dito broke one of my plant pots while barking at an outside creature.  My sister gave me a bunch of jade starts.  I bought more pots at Goodwill.  I keep my eye on free ones on craigslist but rarely have luck.  Goodwill is not always a bargain. $8.

6. Columbia Sportswear Jacket - I got a bunch of really nice clothes in a free box a couple of weeks ago.  This jacket for Willis and a couple sweaters and shirts for me.  FREE.

7. Hops & Homebrew - We have amazing friends.  Nick & Courtney traded us some hops (2 bags) and homebrews (like 18 or so) for our old kitchen table and chairs.  We also walked away with some knives and clothes.  FREE.

8. Tall Mirror - I wanted a mirror for our spare room, I like to play dress up in there.  It will also be nice for our guests to have.  Bought this at Goodwill. $5.

Currently listening to:
Desaparecido - Greater Omaha

02 May 2011

Growing Potatoes: Spring 2011

If you've never grown potatoes, you should.  Especially if you're new to gardening.  They are one of the easiest root crops to grow.  There are many different varieties and they are all delicious.

In order to grow a potato, you basically just put a potato in the ground and bury it.  Then it turns into lots of other potatoes.

Potatoes can be grown in many different ways.  At our old house, we grew them in containers.  When we moved into our new place, we created a specific plot for potatoes.  
Most websites and nurseries suggest that you only use certified seed potatoes, but we've used both seed potatoes as well as just regular ol' potatoes from the store.  You can either cut the potato or just plant it whole.  We've done both.  With smaller potatoes, just plant them whole.  Larger ones, you can cut them in half or quarters, let the cuts callus-over and then plant.

After you bury the potatoes either in the ground or in a container, you wait for them to start growing.  As they develop to about 4-6 inches, add more soil around the plants, this adds more soil for the tubers to continue to develop.

It is also suggested that crops are rotated every year.  So, this year Willis built another raised bed for our new potato crops.   We didn't have enough wood for a whole bed, but we'll build it up when  the potatoes start growing and we need to add more soil.  We plan on replacing the bed to the left of it as well as building a 5th bed, so we'll pick up some more wood for those as well.

Potatoes can be harvested at a variety of stages.  In order to harvest an entire crop, stop adding soil and wait for the tops of the plants to die off.  You'll have to dig around for the potatoes and you'll think that you've found them all.  But you're probably wrong.  We thought we got all the potatoes out of the last bed, but they're popping up all over the place!
After the potatoes are harvested, it is also a good idea to plant a cover crop to re-establish the soil.  We planted fava beans.

How do your potatoes grow?

For more gardening tips, check out this blog carnival:

Currently listening to:
The Babies - Wild I

28 April 2011

Homemade Firestarters

This post is not about royal weddings or tornadoes. However, it is about wood stoves, the Portland weather, camping, and how to make your own firestarters.

One would hope, that since May is just around the corner, the need to use our wood stove or heat would stop, or at least slow down. Yet, last night we had a fire and today at noon, our heat kicked on. We tend to keep our heat between 59 or 60 and use the wood stove on nights when we want a little extra warmth while cuddling with the dogs and watching Heroes. So, if it kicks on during the day, it means it's pretty cold for a spring afternoon.

So, because the rain continues to fall and clouds continue to cover the sky, I can't wait for summer to come around and backpacking adventures to begin. But, because this is the Pacific Northwest, finding dry enough kindling to start a fire isn't always easy, especially early and late in the seasons.

So today, to prepare for our next backpacking adventure and to help out with starting fires in the wood stove, I made some firestarters. These are super lightweight and easy to make and you probably have the materials needed in your home.

Homemade Firestarters

What you'll need:
-Dryer Lint (tip: keep a brown bag next to the dryer to put all our lint into.  When it's full, just throw the whole bag in the compost - if I don't have any more bags, just re-use the same one).  You can also use old Christmas tree/pine needles, newspaper, or a mixture of all three.
-Pressed Paper Egg Carton (tip: these cartons are also compostable.  I try to buy eggs in bulk and re-use cartons).
-Wax or crayons (tip:  keep a jar around to put in old candles or crayons).

How to:
1. Stuff the dryer lint in the egg cartons:
Put in as little or as much as you want.
2. Melt the wax or crayons with a double boiler.  Use a container that you don't mind permanently being covered in wax, for example I used a mason jar.  You can also use a tin can.  Place the wax in the container and then place that into a pot with some simmering (not boiling) water.
Meanwhile, your dog will think you are cooking up something delicious and patiently wait.

3. Place the egg carton on some parchment paper to catch any spilled wax.  Some wax may also seep through the carton, which is o.k.  The wax should peel right off the paper so you can re-use it.

4. Pour or spoon the melted wax into the egg cartons.
My jar wasn't too hot, but just in case, use an oven mitt.

5. Cut them up and store them for later use!
I put mine in a ceramic container near the wood stove.
6. Compost any leftover dryer lint or egg carton (like the lids).  The worms and your garden will love it!  Save the wax for next time!

How to Use:
Just light a piece of the egg carton and build your fire on top!

Currently listening to:
Ida - Willow Tree

Ida: Willow Tree from Foglight Films on Vimeo.