Aug 28, 2013

I went, I saw, I got wet -- Backyard Farm Tour Day Two

With my own duty as official backyard farm host completed last Saturday, I set out the next day to see what others had growing.  Most of the tour stops on the second day were closer to actual farms than backyards.   I only made it to three before getting rained out, but they were pretty cool.

The first was a garden in an alley, behind a row of traditionally (boringly) landscaped newer homes on fairly small lots.   There are no backyards in this neighborhood, just an alley leading to garages.  The gardener, Natacha, fills every patch of dirt in the alley, and along the narrow spaces on each side of her house.  Here's the view from the entrance to the alley.   Can you spot it, beyond the second fence on the right?

first hints of something a little different:

Hey, look at that.....

Natacha's farm!

What these photos don't show is a long row of raspberries along one narrow side yard, and a packed potato patch filling the other, along with a couple of rogue zucchini plants hiding amongst the standard shrubbery in the front.  Birdfeeders, fountain and a big deck with planters full flowers and herbs complete the space.  Every square inch is edible.

With a thunderstorm looming overhead, I headed east to look at two herb 'farms'.  The first one, tucked into the back of a 1/2 acre lot (though it seemed much bigger), is still being created.   At one side is a newish vegetable/herb garden with a small greenhouse.

Across the yard stands a 50 foot hoop house, with sod clearing underway for a second house.   Are you sure this is only a half acre?

Under showery skies, I drove just a few blocks to another herbary, this one on a rocky, full acre lot.   A longer-established garden included raised beds, cloches, a large enclosed area for ducks and chickens, various sheds and greenhouses, all interwoven with native juniper trees and sagebrush and grasses.

I love seeing what other people plant.   Kale, strawberries, chard, and tomatoes are standard.   Along with the green beings, there were other denizens to be seen.  Chickens....

Bees .....

And my fellow tourers....

By this time thunder and lightning were right over the top of us.   After spending 15 minutes huddled under the porch of the house, I headed back to my car, parked nearly two blocks away, when the rain let up.   Before I got even halfway there, the storm redoubled its efforts, and despite my best sprinting form, I arrived at my car battered by hail and soaked to the skin.

At that point I decided to give up on the tour.  I was hungry and the storm cell covered miles and looked like it was here to stay (according to the next day's news reports, the storm generated over 7000 lightning strikes in our area that day and evening.)

  Besides, I had one more errand before I headed home.  

A special sale of fine pianos, onstage at the Tower Theatre downtown, needed visiting.  Pianos needed testing.  To a piano lover, even a wet one, there is no prettier sight than a crowd of shiny grands under lights.


Aug 26, 2013

They came, they saw, they asked questions -- Back Yard Farm Tour Day One

The 2013 Bend Backyard Farm Tour is history.  On a beautiful sunny Saturday, I had over 100 visitors to my 'farm'.   I was so busy I never had time to take a break, and didn't get 'lunch' until the last guest departed, a little after 4:00.

I was so busy I never even took out my camera, so I have no photos of the day -- sorry.  Just for the record, though, here is some of what they saw, under this morning's cloudy skies rather than the bright sunshine of Saturday.

The entrance to the back garden

leads to a large selection of nursery pots, full of perennials waiting to be transplanted into the front yard.   I think most people just thought they were colorful container gardens.   Shhhh

I will say that I was surprised by some of the questions I got.   I always expect to answer questions about tomatoes

and dealing with deer -- which I did.   A large percentage of my visitors each year are newcomers to Bend and/or gardening in general.  Most newcomers arrive from balmier and/or wetter areas such as Seattle, Portland, or California, and I share the usual caveats 'frost is possible any day of the year' 'add tons of organic matter, the soil here is mostly sand' and 'choose varieties for short season maturity'.   This year, though, I had a most unusual experience, when I got to tell newcomers from Paisley, Oregon (south and east of here, even drier and colder and higher in elevation than Bend), 'hey, you'll love it -- it's warmer and we have a longer growing season'.  

But I also found myself expounding on such random topics as:  why the big old weeping birch trees are dying all over town (they are being stressed by rising temperatures), the need to water trees and shrubs, especially newly planted evergreens in the winter (they frequently die over their first winter because when the cold, dry air dries out the foliage, the moisture cannot be replaced via the frozen soil) ...... best non-bee-attracting annual flowers for restaurant window boxes (how would I know, since I plant everything I can that attracts bees?!  ..... what to do for aphids and powdery mildew on lupine cultivars (take 'em out and plant native varieties which are never touched by either).   It's amazing what knowledge you pick up in 40+ years of gardening.

Of course I answered lots of questions about chickens,

 including 'what do you do to keep them warm in winter?' (nothing -- they have feathers and down that will protect them as long as they are dry and out of the wind), 'what kind are those spotted ones' (Speckled Sussex)

and 'why is that chicken in prison?' (because she has gone broody).

Also, does your cat attack the chickens?  (no, but they definitely keep an eye on each other)

Every year there is one plant in particular that for some reason intrigues people, and everybody asks about it.   One year it was asparagus -- most people have only seen the early spring sprouts that appear magically in grocery stores and don't recognize the beautiful ferny leaves of the mature plant.   Another year it was borage, which I allow to go to seed because I love the blue, star-shaped flowers, and so do the bees.

This year people did ask about the borage and the asparagus, but the big surprises were fruit trees ('you can grow fruit trees here?!')

and my favorite question:  'what is that flower that looks like an artichoke?' (it's an artichoke).

Overall, it was just fun to talk with a bunch of really nice, curious and often well-informed people, many of them experienced gardeners themselves.   Although there is a healthy locavore movement, and a recent crop of small farms raising vegetables and herbs locally, it seems many people still don't know much about how to raise their own food and are eager to learn.  I hope some of them went away with a spark of an idea to try a few kale plants this fall and next year.

Aug 23, 2013

Uh Oh. They Are Coming...

No, not goblins and a cave troll.


People who have bought the booklet and, clutching their maps, are touring the local area to look at backyard farms.   Which apparently I have one of.   Who knew?    All these years I thought I was planting a not very organized vegetable garden and tossing in a few random flowers to go with the weeds.   It has never fully lived up to my fantasies expectations of a proper vegetable garden, which tend to come from photos in books and Martha Stewart-type magazines.

But times have changed.   There are locavores.   There is urban farming.   And there seem to be a heck of a lot of people living here who have either never gardened at all or have never planted as much as a radish seed in their lives, but who are worried about GMO's in their food and tired of the pink golf ball tomatoes found in ye olde giant grocery chain market.

Add to that the built-in challenges of growing many of the most traditional food crops in our short-season, cool night, frost-can-happen-any-day-of-the-year climate, and you have a lot of newcomers and even oldtimers who are interested in seeing what can be grown on a city lot.

If the numbers are anything like the visitors in these photos from the 2010 backyard farm tour, I may have a lot of people.  The tour this year has a majority of larger gardens, including several actual farms, rather than smaller ones in people's backyards.   I suspect the average person is more interested in gardens on in-city lots, and since I am designated #1 in the tour booklet, I am expecting a deluge of guests.

Along with recently having become the subject of a Beatles tune (see previous post), I have come to realize that I actually am a genuine 'oldtimer'.  Sadly, along with the vast knowledge of useful oldtimer gardening tips and tricks, has come a bit of arthritis and weariness of limb.   At least I can now blame the weeds on that.   But that isn't going to stop me from tearing the heck out of a few last patches today, before the hordes show up tomorrow.   Tomorrow?!!!!!!    Help!

Come to think of it, the goblins probably wouldn't notice the weeds.

Aug 18, 2013

On Becoming the Subject of a Beatles Tune

It's amazing how wise the boys were, back then.  So young (though older than I was) yet spot on with lyrics and titles about Life.  I confess I haven't done rigorous scientific testing to compare the Fab Four's music with song titles of other classic rock groups, folk groups or any other genre of popular music.   I just happen to love the Beatles, for both nostalgic reasons and because their music is so darned fine, musically, harmonically, philosophically and cosmically.

The titles of so many of their songs just WERE about the important things in life:

And I Love Her   (the words I never tire of hearing)
Because  (...... I said so)
Good Day Sunshine  (excellent philosophy of life)
Help!  (yes please, always and every day!)
I Want to Hold Your Hand (ok)
Strawberry Fields Forever (in the garden.   Also raspberries, apples ....)
With a Little Help From My Friends (more important as the decades pass)
Yesterday (more poignant as the decades pass)
I Am the Walrus (well, the less said about this, the better)

But of course there is one song title that is nudging at every Baby Boomer these days.   You know the one I mean.  Last week it came true for me ...

"When I get older, losing my hair ......"

'many years from now,"
(hey, where did those years go?)

will you still be sending me a valentine,
birthday greetings,
bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three,
would you lock the door?

Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?

You'll be older too.
And if you say the word, I could stay with you.

I could be handy mending a fuse
when your lights have gone.

You can knit a sweater by the fireside,

Sunday mornings, go for a ride.

Digging the garden, digging the weeds,

who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?

Ev'ry summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
if it's not too dear.

We shall scrimp and save.
Grandchildren on your knee;
Vera, Chuck and Dave

                (oops..... no photo here -- we forgot to have children)

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say,
yours sincerely, wasting away.
Give me your answer, fill in a form,
mine forever more.

Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?

Now it's on to Medicare (one year) and Social Security (two years).   How did this all happen?   What a good thing it is to have friends and family, a roof over my head, and 64 years of memories.  Thanks Paul, John, George and Ringo....