The Simple Decisions of a Complex Life

Eggs

Want to know why I really keep backyard hens? The eggs are great, the chicken TV is a blast, and the deep-litter compost might actually make our hens a financially reasonable investment. But that’s not really why I have the girls. I keep laying hens because the sum total of the work involved in feeding, [Continue Reading...]

Half-Ass Hugelkultur

Hugelkultur Beds (31)

Hugelkultur is all the rage right now. This permaculture method of raised bed building is supposed to reduce irrigation needs and provide long term fertility to plants while giving the gardener a kind of hipster garden cred that only comes from funny foreign-sounding growing techniques. A hugelkultur bed is built with hunks of wood as [Continue Reading...]

Potato Chitting Problems: Pale Shoots

Potato Chitting: White Stems (7)

When I placed my order for seed potatoes with Irish Eyes this year, they asked when I’d like my potatoes shipped. Based on my zip code, they recommended a date a few weeks hence. “Oh, no, just send them now,” I said, “I like to chit them before I plant them.” Ah, hubris. So my box of [Continue Reading...]

DIY Wall-Mounted Clothes Drying Rack

DIY Wall Mounted Clothes Drying Rack (5)

The ad on Freecycle said, Wooden Baby Pen, and described some sort of a freestanding baby jail made from dozens of dowels. With visions of a garden cucumber support in my head, I said I would love to have it, and could promise reliable pick up. Before I could worry about trellising cukes, laundry room inspiration hit [Continue Reading...]

Solitary Confinement for Chickens

Chicken Isolation Cage (1)

When I let the hens out for some free range time yesterday, I noticed one of the Austra Whites was bloodied about the comb. We have two of this breed, and the other one was bullied a few months ago in the same way. I was so concerned about the mess of blood on our [Continue Reading...]

Burning Polly Pocket: My Clutter-Clearing Fantasy

Polly Pocket

I can tell it’s officially spring because yesterday I was hit with an overwhelming urge to take everything in my house, pile it in the driveway and burn it. In my pyromaniacal fantasy I haul room-fulls of stuff out into the street and pile it up until all my precious individual things have blurred into an undifferentiated mountain [Continue Reading...]

Battle Coffee Pot vs. Microwave: An Energy Cost Analysis

In this corner: the coffee pot's keep-warm function!

For Christmas this year I got a new coffee pot. Among the wonders it offered over and above our old coffee pot (in addition to working) was a fabulous keep-warm feature that holds a pot of coffee at steaming hot perfection for four hours! Amazing, what will they think of next? While I love the [Continue Reading...]

March Photo Tour of the Garden

March Photo Tour (31)

March in the garden is a time of transition. I’ve always thought there was a sort of irony, that as weather just starts to warm up and the gardener finally starts to feel spring in her heart, we enter the leanest months of a year-round vegetable garden. The earliest fall-sown greens and overwintering brassicas are [Continue Reading...]

Seedlings Started Under Lights vs. On A Windowsill

Seedling Comparison

In early February I started some broccoli seeds the way I normally do, under a bank of full spectrum fluorescent light tubes. At the same time, using the same seeds, the same seed potting mix, and an identical pot (a 6-cell starter tray of 72-sized-cells), I started some broccoli seeds for a friend. She took her [Continue Reading...]

How To Ripen Peppers in the Pacific Northwest

Mid-September - many peppers ripe and harvestable

What Peppers Want Peppers are not difficult, but they are picky. In this way they are just like my 18 month old son: as long as he’s doing exactly what he wants he’s the most easy-going boy in the world. But stop him from smearing peanut butter on the cat and suddenly he’s screaming like he’s [Continue Reading...]

The 7 Best Strength Exercises For Gardeners

Screen shot 2012-03-13 at 9.27.43 PM

Gardening can be remarkably physical. Over President’s Day Weekend I converted some lawn area into a wide swath of planting beds. In the process I shoveled, raked, pushed 200 pound filled wheelbarrows around the yard, bent over to grab building materials, squatted down to grab rocks, swung a mattock, split logs, flung weeds, lifted and [Continue Reading...]

The 5 Best Vegetables To Grow With Kids

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wrote the article below for the website of a local magazine called ParentMap about a month ago. It’s all aglow with the joys and benefits of gardening with kids, and these are many. But I gotta tell you, this past weekend I turned around to see my son standing in the raised bed I’d just been [Continue Reading...]