Peas, Garlic, And The Summer Garden Layout

by A.J. Coltrane

The summer garden layout from the 2nd-story deck:

160522 overview

Top left row (L-R):  Basil, peppers, peppers, peppers, determinate tomatoes, indeterminate tomatoes.

Center row (L-R):  Marigold whiskey barrel, trellised cucumbers, indeterminate tomatoes, indeterminate tomatoes x2

Bottom row (Trellises (L-R)), Tomatatillos. The far right box has Lemon Cucumbers and Tromboncino.

From the “front”:

160522 front

To make room for everything the garlic had to be harvested:

160522 garlic

I think overall the cloves were slightly smaller this year. It may be that they need more space, but it wasn’t a bad harvest.

Finally, the Super Sugar Snap peas that didn’t get eaten as they were harvested:

160522 peas

I count ten. I’m guessing we ate about half of them before the photo. It’s a good start.


Plant list here.

Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Sometimes Things Don’t Go The Way You Thought They Would — The 2016 Plant List

by A.J. Coltrane

On May 7 we showed up early for the May Tilth Edible Plant Sale. Unfortunately they actually held the sale on April 30(!)

Every year the sale had been on the first Saturday in May. Not this year.

Improvisation time. We had twelve EarthBoxes to fill, and time to go to two nurseries–

The Tomatoes:

The Big Idea What Happened
Black Krim Black Krim
Sun Gold Sun Gold
Oregon Spring Oregon Spring
Taxi Taxi
Roma Roma
Yellow Pear Yellow Pear
Paul Robeson Paul Robeson
Cherokee Purple Cherokee Purple

Not bad. We had hoped for a small, short-season melon called “Minnesota Midget”. Neither of the nurseries we hit had a melon like that, so we chose to cut bait and grow an “extra” box of tomatoes instead. It all breaks out to two Cherry Tomatoes (Sun Gold and Yellow Pear), three “Purple” Tomatoes (Paul Robeson, Black Krim, and Cherokee Purple), two “early” tomatoes (Oregon Spring and yellow Taxis), one Sauce tomato (Roma), the striped Tigerella, and a pink/red Valencia.

Ten tomatoes = five boxes. That left seven boxes to go.

The Peppers:

# The Big Idea What Happened
1 Anaheim College 64 Anaheim
2 Early Jalapeno Jalapeno
3 Hungarian Hot Wax Anaheim
4 Numex Highlander Anaheim
5 King of the North Orange Bell
6 King of the North Red Bell
7 King of the North Melrose
8 King of the North Red Beauty
9 King of the North Baron
10 King of the North Ace
11 Iko Iko Orange Sun
12 Iko Iko Serrano
13 Carmen Carmen
14 Carmen Carmen
15 Carmen Serrano
16 Carmen Serrano
17 Gypsy Gypsy
18 Jimmy Nardello Gypsy

Well, sorta. I was happy that we got Serrano, and the King of the North was replaced with other assorted bell peppers… I’m fine with the way the peppers shook out. Three boxes of peppers makes for a total of eight boxes filled.

The Cucumbers:

# The Big Idea What Happened
1 Marketmore 64 Marketmore
2 Marketmore 64 Marketmore
3 Marketmore 64 Marketmore
4 Marketmore 64 Marketmore

Which Marketmore did we get specifically? Who knows. Hopefully “in the ballpark” is close enough. I feel ok with it, and we’re down to three boxes to go.

The Tomatillos:

This year Tilth didn’t offer either of the types that we’ve grown in the past — “Mexican Strain” or “De Mipa”. We selected “Verde” as the replacement. It turned out that the first nursery that we hit had “Verde”, so…

# The Big Idea What Happened
1 “Verde” “Verde”
2 “Verde” “Verde”

Ding! We’re down to two boxes to go.

One box with basil plants will be a gimme. We’ll buy starts in the next 10-14 days. We’re going to try basil from seed this year too. We’re covered regardless. One box to go, and it’s intended to have Tromboncino Zucchini…..

And today a nice woman at the nursery helped me find one of the two Tromboncino plants for the last box. It was labeled with the alternate “Rampincante” name. With any luck they’ll have the last plant back in stock on Tuesday.


The Salad Table And Peas – May 2, 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

The temperature was in the 80’s today. The peas responded by busting out:

160502 peas

I thought they were getting close to flowering.

Though I didn’t get a picture of it, the “rogue pea” is blooming too.

The salad table continues its slow progress:

160502 salad table

Some of the arugula has already bolted. The dill is having issues germinating, as is most everything else — I’m thinking that the setup needs some fresher, looser soil. The surface seems relatively compact and it wouldn’t surprise me if the seedlings are having trouble wedging their way free. The right answer may be to mix in a combination of potting soil and compost. Maybe. Either that or it just hasn’t been warm enough yet for most of the seeds to sprout.


March 9 Update here.

Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

The Winter Garden In April

by A.J. Coltrane

The backyard garden hasn’t yet fully transitioned to “summer”. Maybe next week. The whiskey barrels have some energetic flower starts — Territorial Seed’s Bee Mix, Bug Mix, and Nasturtiums (Jewel Mix).

As of March 2nd, these containers only had gravel in the bottom. They’re in the coldest, shadiest part of the yard that will eventually see good sun as the season progresses:

160425 whiskey barrel

(Front to back — a container of Bee Mix, a container of Bug Mix, a container of 1/2 Bee Mix and 1/2 Bug Mix, a container of Nasturtiums. We’re now planted Marigolds – “Brocade Mix” in the spots that haven’t germinated.)

Next, a close-up picture of the Nasturtiums. We planted about nine seeds. Seven of those germinated. It looks like seven plants is going to be plenty:

160425 nasturtium

The raspberry plant (with a blooming rhododendron behind it):

160425 raspberry

The raspberry plant needs some pruning. I’m holding off until I’m dead certain nothing is going to grow out of the older stems.

As far as everything else:  The mache and chard bolted at the first sign of warm weather. I’m hoping we can harvest mache seed at some point — they’re blooming now. The carrots continue to size up, and it looks like we should be able to harvest those in the next 30 days.

The garlic will need to be harvested in the next 30 days to make room for the summer vegetables as well:

160425 garlic


The actual work on the backyard garden starts soon.

Container Garden Update — April 17, 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

This weekend it was time to harvest the rest of the bunch onions that were planted last fall. It turned out to be just over four pounds:

160417 bunch onion

We separated the onions into whites, stems, and greens and ran them through the slicing disk of the food processor. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a huge time savings. The boy cat had to check it out:

160417 processed bunch onion

I think the processor actually did a better job than the photo implies. The bigger pieces mostly wound up on top.

All in all, it turned into about fifty bags at one-half cup per bag.

The salad table is finally moving forward. Direct seeding is slow in the spring. It seems the better idea would be to start the seedlings inside and transplant. The “tall” stuff towards the right side is arugula:

160417 salad table

The peas were planted on February 8. They’ve now getting grabby with the netting:

160417 peas

Sometime in February a critter came through and dug in the pots. Look what has popped up on the other side of the walkway:

160417 rogue pea

Can’t stop ’em.


GNOIF: GNOIF’s Three Hour Tour

by A.J. Coltrane

GNOIF #22 recap — GNOIF’s Three Hour Tour (Games about water, islands, and pirates.)

Games That Got Played:  Avalon – Resistance, Dominion (Seaside), Pandemic, Pirate’s Cove, Pirate Fluxx, Forbidden Island, Ultimate Werewolf.

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Amerigo, Carcassonne, Forbidden Desert, Island Port.

I enjoy teaching new people Fluxx for the first time. It’s quick to learn, and players always have fun once they wrap their heads around the idea that the rules change almost every turn. It’s a goofy game, but planning still gets rewarded sometimes.

Fittingly, the forces of failure were everywhere — we managed to lose at least one game each of Forbidden Island and Pandemic. The evil team won two out of three games of Avalon. The werewolves won two out of three games of Ultimate Werewolf.

Thanks to everyone who played!

Those Poor People….

Galaxy Quest: A must-see movie if you haven’t already watched it.


In other news, we just passed 1 million sp*m, thank goodness for filters.

The Belated 2016 Bracket Of Peril Results

by A.J. Coltrane

Congratulations to Annie S. for winning the 2016 Bracket Of Peril! She finished at the 94.7 percentile, despite not having the eventual winner, Villanova.

Of course, that means that nobody else picked Villanova either, despite the fact that they wound up #1 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. They were likely only picked by Villanova alumni and a couple of other weirdos.

Annie S., have fun with your big prize — a great big bunch of nothing!


I believe that this also makes it something like seven out of the last eight years that a top 21 defense has won the title — Villanova was #2 in defense. And #6 in offense somehow. Offense helps win games too.


Peter Reinhart’s Challah

by A.J. Coltrane

Easter called for another Challah, this time I tried Peter Reinhart’s, from his book Artisan Breads Every Day. (Last year was his “Double Celebration Challah“. For comparison, here is my 2nd attempt at Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Brioche, a recipe which I found to be a pain to parse.)

This year’s Challah was fairly simple and easy — combine all ingredients, knead, cover, then put it in the refrigerator overnight (or up to three days). The dough is then shaped into braids, braided, covered with egg wash, allowed to rise, covered with egg wash (again) and sesame seeds, allowed to rise (again), then baked:

160329 challah

The recipe is here, on Michael Ruhlman’s website. Note that I halved all of the ingredients — I didn’t need to make two loaves. I don’t know why Reinhart often writes recipes for two (or four, or eleventytwelve) doughs. Though at least this time he used grams, so I didn’t have to mess with figuring out what a one-third portion of 7-1/4 cups of flour computes to.

I like this recipe better than either of the other two that I referenced at the start of this post. The Double Celebration Challah calls for an indeterminate amount of water, 10.5 to 12 ounces — that’s a big range! The Beranbaum Brioche recipe is very poorly worded, and I feel like the recipe is broken into more steps than is necessary.

From a taste standpoint, this Challah was better 2015’s. It may be that including the optional vanilla extract made a difference, though no one mentioned that they detected it. I also think the salt level was very close to correct this time, in contrast to the 2015 bread which seemed to be lacking salt.

Other notes:

  1.  This Challah called for coating the dough with egg wash twice, at one hour intervals. The dough rests uncovered the entire time. It sounds really odd, but it worked.
  2.  Last year’s Challah split — almost exploded. I read somewhere that splitting tends to happen if the braiding is too tight, which definitely could have been the case.
  3.  When it came to the “knead on the counter until the dough is tacky but not sticky” — at least this time the dough was very wet and shaggy at the start of the kneading, and it took a fair amount of flour to get to “tacky”. Maybe it was just humid(?)

Overall it’s a low-hassle, nice tasting bread, and it’s attractive too. I can see making this again even if it isn’t a special occasion.


Back From Vegas 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

The gambling on basketball didn’t go quite as well this year — the total was a few more losses than wins. Not a disaster, but it could have gone better. The over/unders didn’t go well. There were a few missed late free throws (two teams I picked combined to go 1-7 from the line late, blowing two covers in the process.) And so on.

So let’s see if I can make up my losses in real money with fake picks:


Thursday (selections are in CAPS):

MARYLAND +7 vs Kansas

MIAMI +4 vs Villanova

OREGON -2.5 vs Duke

OKLAHOMA -2.5 vs Texas A&M



NORTH CAROLINA -6 vs Indiana

NOTRE DAME -1.5 vs Wisconsin

VIRGINIA -5 vs Iowa State

GONZAGA -4.5 vs Syracuse


Here goes nothing. Literally.



The 2016 Bracket Of Peril!

by A.J. Coltrane

The Most Perilous tourney bracket is back!

Link Here.

The group name is Cheap Seat Eats. Password is TakeMeOut. If you played in the group last year you can simply select “Rejoin Group”.

As always, the winner gets a whole bunch of nothing!

Join soon, the tournament starts Thursday, with the play-in games on Tuesday.


It’s a commercial, but it features some funny “Life Advice” from Latrell Sprewell: