GNOIF: My Dad Says GNOIF is Lazy

-A.J.

GNOIF #32 recap — GNOIF: My Dad Says GNOIF’s Lazy  (Worker placement games, though we didn’t really offer many games in that genre. The title is a riff on the Airplane line:  “I think you’re the greatest, but my dad says you don’t work hard enough on defense.” (spoken by the kid in the cockpit to Kareem.))

Games That Got Played:  Deadwood Studios, King Domino, Sagrada, Ultimate Werewolf – One Night, Viticulture

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Castles of Burgundy, Darkrock Ventures, Kill Dr Lucky, Rocketville

Much of the crowd broke into two big groups. One group played a marathon game of Viticulture. The other played Deadwood Studios. The rest of us started with Sagrada, then moved on to a few games of King Domino. Once everyone was good and tired of thinking it was time for the social Ultimate Werewolf.

It was the biggest turnout in over two years. Thanks to everyone who played!

Container Garden Update — June 10, 2018

-A.J.

The weather continues to be cool, cloudy, and wet. Everything is growing slowly. Today it’s partly cloudy/partly sunny and fairly windy, which makes the photography a little hit and miss.

The raspberries between gusts:

180610 raspberries

This whiskey barrel hosts bush-filet-type Maxibel beans, some Marigolds, and other flowers. Interestingly, the bugs have mostly left the beans alone this year. Could it at least partly be due to the Marigolds helping out and repelling whatever it was that ate the beans last year?

180610 whiskey barrel beans

When we moved into the house the raised beds were a neglected mess. They were mostly overgrown with mint. There was a rosemary plant that has since frozen off and some strawberries that were constantly under attack from weeds, mint, and bugs. We tried moving the strawberries to another location, but we recently re-planted them right back where they started, only this time they have mulch to help combat the weeds and mint.  (Eliminating the mint in the raised beds has been a years-long project and it appears that we’re finally mostly rid of it. We used thick layers of newspaper for starters.)

The south bed now holds strawberries, thyme, chives, garlic chives, and a big sage plant that needs constant pruning so as not to take over. Everything is a little bedraggled right now with all of the mulching and transplanting but they should perk up soon:

180610 raised bed 1

The middle raised bed contains thyme, rosemary which needs pruning, oregano, and lavender. The lavender has been here since the beginning. The rosemary was a spindly $3 mother plant that we purchased at the Seattle Master Gardeners plant sale three years ago. This box still needs some work, but it’s miles ahead of where it was when we moved in.

180610 raised bed 2

And the new asparagus raised bed. Two more plants popped up under the oak tree and were moved to these beds. We added fencing yesterday to try to keep the dog from trooping through the beds:

180610 raised bed 3

The zucchini seem to have responded well to being thinned to one plant per hole. On the left are Fortex (pole) beans. We added more trellis netting to try to discourage them from wrapping around the zucchini. (Which might be fine anyway, I have no idea. No sense making it “interesting”.)

180610 zucchini and beans

The cucumbers were thinned to about two plants per hole. We may try one plant per hole next year, but that seems potentially dicey. Fortex beans are on the right:

180610 cucumber

The cucumber-adjacent planting of Fortex beans (foreground), and Rattlesnake beans (background). The Fortex beans had a head start. They’re very cooperatively wrapping themselves in the trellis netting and around the 2×2 trellis poles:

180610 pole beans

The Fortex are also getting a new leaf shape, which I assume is what they produce the rest of the way (compare the center of the next picture with the bottom of the previous picture). You can also see how the beans are wrapping through the netting:

180610 bean leaf closeup

The more robust of the two tomatillo boxes:

180610 tomatillo

 

An overview picture — here’s an example of why I usually try to get all the photography done in the morning, before the sun peeks over the house. The picture is facing mostly NorthEast. [L-R] along the grass:  box of two Romas, box of two Oregon Spring tomatoes, box of Taxi and Paisano, pepper box, pepper box, basil. In the background to the right side are the cucumbers, with the tomatillos behind that and the big zucchini trellis all the way in the back. There are also two tomato boxes along the north-center side of the patio — one box of two Black Krim and one box with Violet Jasper and Cherry Bomb tomatoes.:

180610 overview

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — May 27, 2018

-A.J.

It was cloudy and cool for much of this week, and it got down into the high 40’s at night. The weather slowed growth for sure.

Before a couple of the cold nights we attached a plastic hoop house over the basil to be on the safe side:

180527 basil

There are supposed to be a few more nights in the 40’s between now and June 1, so I left the metal hoops on that box for now. We’ve used mini hoop houses like this one in the past for winter gardening. (The original “hoop house” post called for dowels and pvc for the support. Now we’re using wire bent to shape, with clothespins to hold the plastic in place. Much simpler and cheaper. The idea works great with shade cloth or row covers too.)

The Fortex beans might have benefitted from a hoop house as well, but they seem to be ok with the fringy-cold weather so far:

180527 fortex beans

The Fortex beans went from “nothing” to “that” in two weeks. If you look closely behind the Fortex there are Rattlesnake beans that were planted a week ago. They’re just starting to poke out of the soil after the cool week. We hung two pieces of scrap trellis netting up to the tops of the cucumber box (left) and tomatillo box (rear). We’ll see how that works out.

The cucumbers are off to a good start. It’s hard to believe we’ll get ~50 pounds of produce from these:

180527 cucumber

The tomatillos were getting floppy, and the forecast called for gusty 30 mph winds, so I stuck a dowel into the soil next to each of the tomatillos and used velcro plant ties to hold them up:

180527 tomatillo

The Tromboncino zucchini. I over-planted last year, so this year I figured I’d over-correct and leave just one plant per hole. The new leaves look great, so hopefully the strategy will pay off. (Note the holes for the Fortex beans to the far side (north) of the zucchini. They were planted last week at the same time as the Rattlesnake beans in the earlier picture):

180527 tromboncino zucchini

The new asparagus received mulch around Mother’s Day and continue to do well. (Compare to two weeks ago.) There are 3 more asparagus from the batch from 3 years ago that are under the shade of our oak tree. I’ll likely try to rescue/transplant them to the box soon. As it turns out, under an oak tree is not an ideal location for asparagus. (Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like the shade of the oak tree is especially dark this year. It’s a wonder grass does passably well under the oak.)  Looking at the picture — it seems like a lot of the larger plants are female, which I guess is less than ideal, but should be fine anyway:

180527 asparagus

A view from the back garage door looking out to the yard:

180527 back view

 

We now have some pea flowers happening, and the salad table is finally ready to start harvesting!:

180527 salad table

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

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

-A.J.

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

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

And Happy Mother’s Day.

Initial Impressions Of Three New Hand Tools For Gardening

-A.J.

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

-A.J.

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.)

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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

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

 

The 2018 Bracket Of Peril!

-A.J.

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!)

jimmer

GNOIF’s Outrageous Slings And Arrows

-A.J.

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

-A.J.

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.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

 

A No-Knead With Barley Flour

-A.J.

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..