(Trans)Planting Day, And Other Pictures From Around The Yard


Last Saturday was the Seattle Tilth vegetable sale. The weather is supposed to be warm this coming week, so Saturday became Transplant Day:

180513 overview

The 2018 Plant List:

1 Box Black Krim tomatoes (2 plants. 75 day indeterminate)

1 Box Oregon Spring tomatoes (2 plants. 60 day determinate.)

1 Box – Violet Jasper & Cherry Bomb tomato (Both are cherry/small indeterminates. 75 and 64 days respectively.)

1 Box – Taxi & Paisano (Taxi’s are yellow 65 day determinate. The Paisano are a 68 day determinate “San Marzano type sauce tomato”.)

1 Box – Roma (2 plants. 75 day determinate.)

That’s 3 boxes of determinates and 2 boxes of indeterminates.  I think that’s about as many indeterminates as will comfortably fit on the patio.

1 Box Tromboncino zucchini (2 plants)

1 Box Marketmore 76 cucumbers (4 plants)

2 Boxes Verde Tomatillo (4 plants total.) We’ll use roasted tomatillos either in salsas or as a marinade. We’ve found we’re using them up faster than peppers, so this year we’ve taken one of the pepper boxes and turned it into a tomatillo box.

2 Boxes peppers (12 plants total.  10 Carmen and 2 Jimmy Nardello.) We have plenty of hot peppers in the freezer and dried in the pantry. Skipping a year of hot peppers won’t be the worst thing. The Carmen’s are consistently a super producer for us. We’re going to give the Nardellos another try — last year they sort of got out-competed.

1 Box set aside for basil. (6 plants, about early June)

I think overall the quality of the plants at the sale was pretty good this year. Hopefully that will translate into good yields.

We purchased a few City Pickers. They were purchased specifically for pole beans. The City Pickers are a little wider and shallower than the EarthBoxes, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to squeeze them in at the ends of the trellises. According to the instructions you can do 20 pole beans. This box just got planted with Fortex, which is a stringless Haricot Vert variety:

180513 new container

Continuing with the “container” theme, the raspberries are looking happy this year:

180513 raspberry

The salad table is slowly coming around. It’s been a cool spring and I think it set everything back a couple of weeks. Pictured are romaine, Tom Thumb lettuce, frilly cilantro, dill, and spinach:

180513 salad table

It’s year 1 for the asparagus and we’re babying the heck out of it. This picture was taken right before I added the last of the soil. We’ll give it another 7-10 days and top it with mulch. I think almost every crown has come up:

180513 asparagus

We try to make a point to use NW native plants as ornamentals. This is a Pacific Bleeding Heart:

180513 bleeding heart

A cheerful blue weed that volunteers every year. I don’t believe we purchased it:

180513 blue weed

Bluebells in poor light — I don’t know if they’re native but I’ve seen them around quite a bit in odd places. There are maybe half a dozen of them in shady spots in the back yard:

180513 bluebells

The Shooting Star that is native to the Northwest. I believe it’s “Henderson’s”, or “Pacific”:

180513 shooting star


Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

And Happy Mother’s Day.

Initial Impressions Of Three New Hand Tools For Gardening


We have enough whiskey barrels and raised beds now that I thought it might be helpful to purchase some hand tools specifically designed for small weeding tasks. I went with a Hori Hori knife, a Japanese sickle, and a CobraHead weeder.  Three tools was probably overkill, but I’ve wanted to try a Hori Hori knife and a Japanese sickle for quite a while. The CobraHead looked interesting too, and I thought it might work best on the dandelions and similar weeds with a long taproot.

What follows are my initial impressions of each tool.

First up:  The CobraHead

180428 cobrahead

The CobraHead worked well specifically on dandelions. To use, just smack down behind the root and pull back towards yourself. For big weeds you pull the weed with your off hand while you’re pulling on the CobraHead. It seemed to get all of the taproot about half the time, and I’d say it got most of the taproot most of the rest of the time. The instructions say not to use the tool as a pry bar, but the shape almost begs for it to be used that way. I’m not going to be shocked if I get a little too enthusiastic at some point and wind up breaking off the tip.

My feeling is that we’ll mostly be using the CobraHead in the yard on dandelions and maybe on weeds that live in cracks in the cement. We may use it to help with seeds and transplants, but I think the next tool will get that call…

The Hori Hori knife:

180428 hori hori

Sharp! Sharp! Sharp! And it comes with a sharpening tool. The Hori Hori knife slides into the soil like butter. It makes a regular trowel feel clunky by comparison. It will remove weeds, but I didn’t feel like it was super efficient at removing weeds with a large tap root. I think we’ll be using it for assorted small digging tasks, breaking up/sawing off small roots, and transplanting seedlings. It may wind up taking most or all of the tasks from the dibbler. The dibbler has proven to be good for making holes for transplants, but I’m guessing the Hori Hori knife can do that too, and it has a built-in measuring stick for plant spacing/ planting depth.

I’ll probably buy some Class 5 cut resistant gloves for the Hori Hori knife and the final new toy…

The Japanese sickle:

180428 japanese sickle

I selected this variety of Japanese sickle because it has no welding weak point. It has good heft and it’s sharp as heck. To use it swing down behind the weed and pull. If you twist your wrist a little at the same time it will drop the point directly down into the soil, giving the sickle a function similar to the CobraHead. It also functions as a very small hoe, and it’s easy to control around established plants. I was able to quickly and easily clean up the raised herb beds. At one point I was able to pop a weed out of the center of a chive plant by aiming the tip straight down and then twisting — I was totally surprised it was that easy. This tool was by far the most fun and versatile to use — I filled two 5-gallon buckets with weeds very quickly, then went looking for more “trouble” in the yard.

Three new toys. I think they’ll all see use. Hopefully these purchases will fix my desire for garden shopping for a while.

The New Raised Bed For Asparagus and A Salad Table Update


The box of Jersey Supreme Asparagus recently arrived. When we went looking for somewhere to plant them we discovered that really didn’t have a good place for them to live. The other two raised beds are already full of chives, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, and so on. What we did have was space for one more raised bed. It was easiest to just order a raised bed kit from Amazon for delivery to the house:

180408 raised bed 1

The boards themselves are dovetailed on the ends. They’re supposed to just slide into the grooves on the posts. The reality is that there was more than a little bit of leftover material from the machining process, and the tolerances left something to be desired. I wound up using the two “hammers” in the foreground to knock the boards into place. (Yay for weird scraps in the woodpile!)

Next up was lining the bottom of the bed with newspaper, adding the soil. making trenches, then lining the trenches with compost:

180408 raised bed 2

The box of asparagus contained twenty-seven crowns of varying sizes. Ideally there would be four crowns at most per trench — I had to squeeze a few of the smaller ones five to a trench to fit everything. It’s a fairly sunny spot, so hopefully this batch will do better even if they are a little tight together.

The last step was to add squirrel protection (bird netting):

180408 raised bed 3

Note that the raised bed kit comes with decorative “caps” for the posts. I chose not to use them specifically so that it would be easier to cover the bed with bird netting or potentially run hoops over bed.

One selling point of the Jersey Supreme asparagus is that it’s relatively early, which here in the Pacific Northwest is a good thing. The Territorial Seed Company description:

An exciting release in the Jersey asparagus series. The predominately male hybrid emerges approximately 7-10 days earlier than other varieties. This is welcome news for asparagus lovers and market growers. Great tasting and very tender, Jersey Supreme is just as cold tolerant and disease resistant as Jersey Knight. Will overwinter to zone 3.

The description mentions “market growers”, always a positive sign.

(Link to the raised bed kit for those interested.)


The Salad Table:

In mid-March I spread a bunch of assorted seeds around the top level of the salad table. It’s many of the usual suspects — arugula, romaine, dill, cilantro, and other lettuces. We’re just now seeing some activity:

180408 salad table top

The Miner’s Lettuce on the north side of the middle tier is well ready to harvest. Really, it’s already flowering, so we’d better get to it soon:

180408 salad table middle

The Super Sugar Snap peas in the pots on the north side of the table are just getting rolling:

180408 peas


Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.


The 2018 Bracket Of Peril!


The 2018 Bracket Of Peril is here! The prize, as always, is a whole bunch of nothing!

Link here.

Group Name:  Cheap Seat Eats

Password:  TakeMeOut

(Late Edit — Another easy win for Annie S. Congrats!)


GNOIF’s Outrageous Slings And Arrows


GNOIF #31 recap — GNOIF’s Outrageous Slings And Arrows  (Medieval themed games. The title also hints at Cupid’s arrows around V-Day and also to Hamlet — possibly Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquy.)

Games That Got Played:  Five Minute Dungeon, Imperial Harvest, Sheriff of Nottingham

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Avalon, Carcassonne, Castle Panic, Citadels, Guillotine, King Domino, Medieval Academy, Python Fluxx, Queen Domino, Seven7s, Small World

It was a small crowd made smaller by a few folks calling in sick. Still, I think everyone had fun and we got a chance to see people that we don’t see as often as we’d like, so that was good.

The focaccia bread used for the Big *ss Sandwich came out better than usual.  The recipe for posterity:  800g flour.  640g Bread Flour (80%), 160g Barley Flour (20%), 640g water (80%), 24g olive oil (3%), 18g salt (2.25%), ~12g diastatic malt (1.5%), 1.5 tsp instant yeast. Mix on 2nd speed for 10 minutes. Leave the dough in the mixing bowl and cover. Go out for breakfast and then to the store for a total of about 2 hours. Move the dough from the bowl to an oil-lined sheet tray, stretch the dough out to near the edges of the tray, cover (with another inverted sheet tray) and let rise 1 hour. Dizzle oil on top, make many indentations with fingertips. Bake at 460F for 25 minutes rotating halfway through. Let cool on a rack.

The increased hydration seemed to offset the lift-reducing barley flour. That, and I used a little more oil on top than I have been lately (a semi-generous amount this time). The end result:  Good volume. Good crunch. Good browning. Good bread.

There. I finally co-opted another post with a bread post.


The 2018 Seed List, And New Containers


The seeds have arrived. The list from Territorial Seed:

Qty Item # Product Description Price
1 FL2438/S Bee Feed Flower Mix – Bee Feed Flower Mix 3.05
1 FL2432/S Beneficial Bug Flower Mix – Beneficial Bug Mix 3.05
1 FL2428/S Bohemian Rhapsody Flower Mix – Bohemian Rhapsody 2.95
1 HR1130/P Confetti Coriander/Cilantro – Confetti Coriander 4.35
1 LT406/L Flashy Trout’s Back Lettuce Organic & Pelleted – Flashy Trout’s Back Lettuce Organic 3.45
1 BN038/S Fortex Bean – Fortex Bean Seeds 4.65
1 ON557/S Guardsman Onion – Guardsman Onion 2.95
1 XA106/C Jersey Supreme Asparagus Crowns – Jersey Supreme Crowns 38.95
1 LT393/L Red Sails Lettuce Organic & Pelleted – Red Sails Lettuce Organic 3.45
1 MS473/S Roquette Salad Arugula Conventional & Organic – Roquette Arugula 2.85
2 LT394/S Salad Bowl Lettuce – Salad Bowl Lettuce 5.70
1 PE636/P Super Sugar Snap Peas – Super Sugar Snap 3.95
1 LT395/M Winter Density Lettuce Organic – Winter Density Lettuce 3 grams 6.95

I accidentally did a double order on the “Salad Bowl Lettuce” but that’s ok because the seeds will last long enough that they’ll get planted eventually. I was interested to try some red and/or speckled lettuces — the Flashy Trout’s Back is pictured below. The Winter Density (romaine), Cilantro, and Arugula are staples and represent the varieties that have done the best for us over time. We’re also going to try some asparagus in a better location — the batch we planted 3 years ago hasn’t really thrived.

Flashy Trout's Back

Flashy Trout’s Back

Then there are the beans. We really enjoyed the bush Maxibel filet beans last year. Fortex beans are supposed to be a very similar pole bean that’s highly recommended around the interweb. The Territorial Seed description:

70 days. A productive gourmet delight. The exceptionally long, medium-green pods grow to over 10 inches long. This stringless French filet type pole bean can be harvested at 6-7 inches for extra slender beans. Scrumptious when fresh, the rich, sweet flavor is a welcome treat. Fine restaurant or specialty market farmers should grow this one. The 6 foot tall vigorous plants require trellising.

That sounds tasty, doesn’t it? In a related note, if the Territorial Seed description states:  “fine restaurant”, or “a must for the market gardener”, or “market farmers should grow this one” — that means that it’s a variety we want to Strongly Consider. We also picked up some neat looking cranberry beans at the farmer’s market last year that will get a try. The plan is to train the pole beans up the sides of the trellises that have the cucumbers and vining zucchini.

To house the beans I purchased four of these to squeeze underneath the edges of the trellises:

City Picker


It’s a self-watering 20″ by 24″ container. (Amazon link here. The price seems to be going up as we approach gardening season. I paid about $40 with free shipping for each.) According to the literature each container can support 20 pole beans(!) Hopefully we can find a way to neatly tuck them in to the existing spaces under the trellises. It’s going to be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison with the EarthBoxes.

The 2017 seed list. The 2016 “Too Many Seeds Probably” list.


Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.


A No-Knead With Barley Flour


On the left is a No-Knead Bread that substitutes 25% barley flour for the bread flour. The bread on the right is the normal recipe:

180121 barley bread

The barley flour bread was baked in a smaller container, which accounts for some of the difference. Overall though, the barley dough didn’t rise nearly as much as the regular dough. The barley crumb wasn’t “compact”, but it definitely wasn’t as open as the regular loaf.

From a taste standpoint, the barley was fairly similar to the 30% Spelt bread from three weeks ago. They’re both decidedly different from 100% regular bread flour — regular bread flour has a much more “refined sugar” vibe going on. The Spelt was earthier than a regular bread, and I think the barley was earthier still. Interestingly, I really didn’t get “nutty” out of either the spelt or the barley.

I think I’m inclined in the future to limit the percentage of barley in a rustic bread to a lower amount, or just substitute more spelt flour instead. The spelt was much more enthusiastic and the crumb was better. Either that, or barley just needs way more hydration than I gave it. It could be the “right answer” is to increase the hydration from 75% to around 85% and see if that gives the barley bread more lift.

Right now I’m liking spelt more than barley, though I’d guess I need to give barley a few more tries before I really figure out what I think.

Also: I keep typing “barely”. I don’t have that problem with spelt..

The Pizza Bible, And Honey BBQ Chicken Pizza


I recently received a copy of The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani. (Subtitled:  The World’s Favorite Pizza Styles, from Neapolitan, Deep-Dish, Wood-Fired, Sicilian, Calzones and Focaccia to New York, New Haven, Detroit, and more). I requested it as a gift. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of YouTube videos focused on breads and pizza, and Gemignani stood out to me as someone with a broad and deep knowledge of what makes good pizza. He’s a 11-time World Pizza Champion, and he owns a restaurant in San Francisco that features 7 pizza ovens, each focused on a different style of pizza — each style has it’s own distinct dough and handling. He’s clearly really done his research.

The book is excellent. I picked up a few ideas, a couple of which went into this BBQ Chicken Pizza with Shallots and Mozzarella.

180106 bbq chickken pizza2

The Recipe:  I “marinated” two minced shallots in Honey BBQ sauce with a little red wine vinegar and mixed ground peppercorns. Chicken tenderloins were poached, cooled, cubed, and allowed to rest in a light coating of BBQ sauce.

The dough:  300 grams bread flour, 190 grams water (63% hydration), 6 grams kosher salt (2%), 15 grams olive oil (5%), 6 grams diastatic malt (2%), 1 teaspoon instant yeast. Mix all ingredients on low speed for 8 minutes. Let rest 30 minutes, then stretch and fold the dough. Preheat oven with pizza stone to 500F at least 30 minutes, I gave it an hour.  Let the dough rise another 90 minutes. Shape the dough, top with the BBQ/shallot mixture, and bake on the stone for 8 minutes. Top with the chicken and mozzarella and bake 5 minutes more.

The first new “tip” from the Pizza Bible:  Gemignani will use a variety of combinations of “dusting” flour when he stretches the dough. I used about a 50/50 mix of AP flour and semolina. I pressed out the pizza by hand, taking care not to squeeze the air out of the edges. In the process the dusting flour with semolina was incorporated into the bottom of the pizza.

2nd “tip”:   2% diastatic malt is loosely double what I’ve typically been using for pizzas. Many recipes in The Pizza Bible recommend that amount of malt. It seemed to give very good results this time.

The book is written very much in his speaking style. Here he is discussing the new book (December 2014) – “Food At Google”


And March 2015 “Chefs At Google”:

The two videos total around 90 minutes — I feel like I learned a number of things from the videos.  Highly highly recommended watch.

The Amazon link to the book.

I think I may need to start using higher hydrations for pizza. The end result is lighter. It creates a big pizza that’s more air and the pizza doesn’t weigh me down after eating it. Nobody loves a gut bomb.


Spelt Flour In A No-Knead, And A Helpful Handling Idea


I recently decided to start experimenting with flours other than “regular” wheat flour, so I purchased some Spelt flour, Rye flour, and Barley flour.

First up:  Spelt flour.

spelt bread 171230

Pictured is the No-Knead recipe, substituting out 30% of the Bread flour and using Spelt instead.

Notes On “2017 No Knead Tweaks”: 

When I started making No Kneads I was baking them at 450F. I’m now using 460F. In Lahey’s book “My Bread” he calls for 475F.

Lahey calls for preheating the oven for 30 minutes. I try to shoot for an hour, which is much longer than I had been preheating the oven. (It had been as little as 15 minutes. Now I don’t think that’s enough time to really get the whole oven hot.)

For the final proofing I’ve been coating the bowl with a neutral spray oil, then dusting the bowl with rice flour. More on that further down this post.

I try to slash the dough a little after it gets into the hot dutch oven. It’s been my experience that I get better and more consistent rise that way.

I’m going to update the No-Knead tab after I get done with this post.

The next picture shows a 30% Spelt bread/70% King Arthur Bread flour on the left, 100% King Arthur Bread flour on the right:

spelt left 171230

The Spelt flour bread is darker. It also seemed to proof faster and rise higher. Per wikipedia: “In comparison to hard red winter wheat, spelt has a more soluble protein matrix characterized by a higher gliadin: glutenin ratio.” My suspicion is that Spelt flour also has something that is contributing to increased enzyme activity, whether it’s more damaged starches in the flour, or a higher initial population of enzymes, or just different enzymes. It also worth noting that the gluten structure created by Spelt flour is more delicate — the dough requires gentle handling to prevent degassing.

Speaking of gentle handling — here is the end result of trying to use parchment paper as a sling to place a No Knead dough into the dutch oven:

bread parment sling 171230

See the dents in the sides? That’s where the parchment interfered with the oven spring of the bread. Failed experiment.

Lahey recommends using a cloth (or your hands) to transfer a No Knead dough into the dutch oven. If it’s a cloth he recommends generously dusting with “wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour” (pg 52 of “My Bread”). I’ve been letting the final rise happen in a bowl because I’ve seen him do the transfer from the cloth to the oven and I think it makes more of a mess than I’m willing to tolerate in the kitchen. The thing with the bowl is that flour will stick to the sides, so I’ve started oiling, then dusting the sides of the bowl with rice flour. Rice flour doesn’t contain gluten, and I’ve found that it will allow the dough to release much more easily from the bowl.

And it only took me six years to figure that out.

As far as the taste and appearance of the 30% Spelt No Knead —  I felt like the “regular bread flour” tasted more like refined sugar. The Spelt tasted much mellower and rounder. The finished exterior appearances of the two breads were very similar, as were the crumb structures. The Spelt raw dough had a very distinct red/pink hue to it. A bunch of discerning palates had nice things to say about the Spelt, so it must have been ok.

I’ll be baking with Spelt again.

Three Flatbreads, And Thoughts About Modernist Bread


Last week I listened to Francisco Migoya:  “Insights From ‘Modernist Bread’ – New Discoveries In The World Of Bread Science.” (On YouTube. I didn’t go to Johnson & Wales to hear him speak.) The video is at the bottom of this post. It’s an hour, but there is some interesting stuff.

Modernist Bread is a bigger set of books than the Modernist Cuisine. It’s over $500.

But the thing is, whatever truly new and/or revolutionary content the books may have to offer, isn’t it likely the information will be on somebody’s blog, or the FreshLoaf forums in no time flat?

Flatbread/pizza with basil puree, pine nuts, and parmesan.

Flatbread/pizza with basil/olive oil puree, toasted pine nuts, and pecorino romano.

In the video Francisco talks about the percentage of oil in a bread formula to allow maximum oven spring and lift.

Pecorino romano and diced roasted red and yellow peppers

Pecorino romano with diced roasted red and yellow peppers

It turns out the answer is 2% oil. I’ve been using 0 – 3% oil when I’m trying for lift. I appreciate his sharing the actual amount, but I don’t think I need to be investing $500 for the info.

9-hour rise focaccia. 75% hydration. 4% oil. Finished with sea salt and minced red onion.

9-hour room-temperature rise focaccia. 75% hydration. 4% oil. Topped with with sea salt and minced red onion.


Maybe I’m being too harsh. I guess we’ll see. I’m not going to be an early adopter on this one.

Still, interesting talk: