Sunday, July 24, 2011


What do you do with 13 lbs of green cabbage? In our house you make kraut. This was one of my favorite farm successes last year and while we won't have farm pig to go with it it will be great for all kinds of applications. This was four very large and oddly conical head of Danish ballhead cabbage and 8 tbs of pickling salt. It was fresh enough that no extra brine was needed and I am at about 1/2 capacity in my 3 gallon pickling crock. Last year I used food grade plastic buckets and am excited to break-in the crock.

I think my yield will be about 15 pint jars. I must pack it as that math doesn't translate. It is finally summer here so hopefully fermentation will be fast but not go off the rails. We have a lot more cabbage out there.

Incidentally, kraut Is vastly easier when using a food processor with a slicer attachment. I managed to do mine in about an hour start to finish. The Magpie crashed en route home from Seattle after a very successful 24 hr visit from her buddies Henry and Iris. Not much sleep to be had but lots and lots of fun including NW Trek and the farm. We will have to do that again soon.

Eric off at Rainier today emoting some split board action with Robie and I am looking forward to easy dinner out after the crazy weekend!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

photos for real

Finally - meet the Magpie.

Apparently it is very difficult to post photos from an iPad, and I have been lazy about posting from our regular mac laptop.

My fix? Using my PC at work. I promise - it's lunch time, and I won't do this regularly. But really, didn't we need some pictures? I thought so.

Thanks to Keith for the images!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lost post

Oh Blogger - why do you hate me? I just wrote ON MY IPAD which is not easy an entire post about the farm tours we put on today for the retirement community where Doug works. Yes, our hosts have "real" jobs too, as well as the farm. But the post is now lost so I will just say it was a really nice day with some great folks. Sheep were coaxed to run for kettle corn, blue eggs were oohed and aahed over, berries were sampled, and the Magpie got a ton of attention. She also got some really good kid time with her farm friend and some visiting new friends.

The thing that I lost that I liked the most wasn't actually about the tour, it was shortening Doug's job description to recreationista, which is just perfect. And I will leave it at that.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

No excuses

I could get into all of the reasons why I haven't been posting but that is no fun and I am typing on an iPad during Magpie's swim class.

So I won't.

At the farm things are finally growing as now that we are in JULY summer seems to have hit. We are eating peas, onions, garlic, garlic tops, GREENS' herbs, lettuces, radishes, strawberries, raspberries, broccoli and beet greens. I don't count those with the masses of cabbages and kales. We have carrots, beets, and basils coming up from seeds, tomatoes putting on fruit in the hoop house, and the chiles are starting to take off. I have visions of late summer bounty and will plan on preserving mightily!

Things already preserved and, in some cases consumed: cabbage kimchi, green onion kimchi, strawberry jam, pickled onions (quick). I am so excited fo sauerkraut that I can hardly wait - last year that was a huge hit. Fermenting and pickling are more interesting than the sweet stuff but we will probably have a mix of all of it.

Off to help clean up the farm for the annual tours.

There are some photos to post but I need to figure that out....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thirty five

Another birthday. Celebrating with friends and family at the farm was just perfect. Great food, yummy drinks, and a passel of free range kids - what could be better? Then off to NW Trek with Eric, Magpie, and Paakka for the slug festival which will be even more fun when M can participate in the slug races.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sailing and grit

Brave new world here as I try to post from my new toy (thanks Eric!).

Swim class this weekend failed miserably but I chalked it up a sick Magpie on the mend so we headed to the zoo and met up with Pakka for a great morning. good thing we went early as it was the first real summery day and PDZA was thoroughly overrun with people by the time we left. We took advantage of the sun and headed out on Pakka's boat for a sail. great fun but M was really most interested in the flashlight from the nav station.

Saturday evening was nice and lowkey with our first dinner on the deck.

Sunday we headed down to the Fair for the MotherEarth News fair for a morning of green living and DIY fun. We didn't have the best luck with classes until my afternoon canning class, but picked up some books and a cheese kit and did some great people-watching. I am very excited about the canning class and predict that this will be the year of the pickle at the farm.

Speaking of the farm, while I enjoyed my class E and M headed to the farm to meet some friends, do some work, and have some fun. much weeding and tilling was done. M watered.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

busy weekend!

This was a crazy busy weekend, which honestly is not unusual for us. I really need to simplify - but I am unlikely to do so. I am a planner, and I will pack 10 pounds into a 5 pound bag (thank you Fred) every time.

So, it was busy.

What did we do? Saturday I ran at 7 am (this is unlike me). Then we didn't go to swim lessons because Magpie was sick, but instead took the chance to spread a cubic yard of TAGRO into our sad planter boxes full of crappy fill dirt and uncared for but tough as nails plants. We ended up with the straight stuff rather than the potting mix - we'll see how tough they really are. This was followed by a bounce-house birthday party for the daughter of good friends and then dropping Magpie off at Grandma's for a jamma par-tay (which was restful for the sicky compared to the planned evening with cousins). Off to Gig Harbor for pedicures for me and my sis-in-law followed by her birthday dinner out (excellent dinner - highly recommend JW in Gig Harbor!). Then home for a good night of childless sleep before...

...the first BIG farm day of 2011. Now, our lovely hosts at the farm have quite a lot of big farm days. So far in 2011 we have had a number of butchering days, wine days, and even a few garden days plus the regular day to day stuff that the guys manage much to our benefit. But on Sunday after picking up Magpie and having mother's day breakfast with Grandma and Pakka, we spent close to seven hours tackling projects and man, did we ever get stuff done.

1) The return of the chili house. Last year we filled the green house with a variety of chili plants, mostly started from seeds. They were awesome - best way to grow them in lovely maritime western Washington. This year I got lazy and bought starts - but we planted with lots more spacing so I hope yields make up for it. I will have to check the plant count, but I think it's around 60. Mostly poblanos, anaheims, and jalepenos with some serranos, cayenne, habanero, thai chili, Hungarian blacks, Jamaican hot chocolates, and a few sweet peppers for good measures. Oh, and we threw in some eggplants. The green house is full, drip system is in, and I am already looking forward to late summer!

2) The tomato house. Last year was an abysmal tomato year. Really, really depressing - we planted over 70 tomato plants and got probably less than 20 gallons of really good tomatoes. In retrospect is is probably good they didn't all ripen, but more would have been nice. This year the strategy is to plant them in a relatively large hoop house and unveil them sometime around July. We have 25 plants in there with room for about 15 more, plus a few additional eggplants and chilis that had no room in the greenhouse.

3) The bean tunnel. My mother is, perhaps, a little obsessed with beans. We all enjoyed them last year, but my mom has visions of dried beans dancing in her head. So we (much this is the royal we, which often does not involve me personally) built a lovely 8-ft tall and probably 5-ft wide series of PVC arches with netting over them for the beans to grow up and over along part of the path bisecting the main garden.

4) Planting starts. A combination of our seed starts and purchased starts we plugged in the ground. Adding to the rows of cabbages and other greens that went in a few weeks ago, and hte potatos I forgot to mention, we've now added parsley, celery, lots of onions, cauliflower, more broccoli, peas (planted to grow up the bean tunnel until the beans are ready to go). I also finally was able to plant some seeds directly in the ground - 2 types of carrots and some beets.

5) The children's garden. Magpie "helped" start seeds so it's only appropriate that she plant the resulting mishmash in a space for her to call her own. She reveled in the dirt and the chance to work without anyone telling her not to step, dig, or sit anywhere she liked.

6) Various chores including weeding, tilling, hilling leeks.

The garden is looking lovely in its early well-tilled, even-rowed state (particularly with a glass of well-earned farm wine in hand), and we are all very excited to see how it develops. More starts to go out in the next couple of weeks which we will supplement with additional plants from the markets.

Things we can eat now: red and white "green" onions planted last year and overwintered. These are delicious! Lovage, which is kind of like celery, but better. Until last week turnip greens, but those have been rototilled now. A variety of wild greens.

Other things planted last fall or winter but not quite ready: leeks, globe onions (white, yellow, red), shallots, five varieties of garlic. We have asparagus coming up that has to wait for next year, as well as rhubarb.

It is going to be a good year.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

cheating part 2

We did another round of starts in April - I believe it was April 16 so that is the date I am using. More onions (I had an unfortunate watering incident wherein I watered bunching onions that we supposed to be started later - purplettes were one of the favorites last year), regular sugar snap peas, cilantro, at least. I will have to double check on other things when I am not cheating.

When we plant these starts we use 1-inch "plug" starts in flats of 7 by 11 which were rescued from a local non-profit who decided they had outlived their usefulness. They are pretty awesome, although unfortunately the geese thought so too and ate at them over the winter.

Anyhow, the previously planted starts are pushing their way up but not yet ready to plant so we know have a pretty large collection of starts in the greenhouse. Good thing the green house is enormous. It actually got sunny today, so it was also quite warm for a bit.

After a long day at the farm I stopped, dirty with a dirty Magpie, for a very civilized wine tasting. I love my wine shop that way - tastings every Saturday and coming with farm dirt just means you have stories to tell. Anyhow, I wanted to buy a French white (unlike me) because I was desperate to make this. It took longer than I thought, but Eric was off playing poker (well earned after a long day) so my mom came over and we cooked and watched movies with the Magpie and eventually enjoyed some french onion deliciousness. And all of the wine. Cheers!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

cheating on my blog

I am dating this post March 27 but that is a total lie. It's really May and I failed miserably in my first two months of documenting the farm and anything else. Part of this is because we went to Ogden to visit my sister, which included the MOMENTOUS occasion of getting Margaret on skis. Part of it is that I have been working extra days. But mostly, honestly, it's because I haven't made the time to do it. So, I am cheating.

I am fairly sure that on March 27 we planted a ton of seeds. These included a huge number of "bunching" onions (basically green onions or scallions), lacinato or black dinosaur kale, broccoli (at least 2 kinds), purple cabbage, green cabbage (77 starts - my mom did an entire flat), some Amish peas for seed savers, a few kinds of mustards and Asian greens, collards, and probably a few other things I can't recall because IT WAS SIX WEEKS AGO.

The cabbage is exciting because I made sauerkraut last year and canned it myself and it was delicious. And well we won't have farm pig to enjoy with it this year I am sure I can make due with a substitute. The onions were a huge hit, I loved the kale and other greens.

I think we planted 5 flats of seeds - about 400 starts. We are still working on "smarter". And we are committing to thinning.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Little History

My favorite school picture of myself was taking when I was 7 years old. I didn't have glasses yet (I made poor glasses choices in my early years - and there's no way around that in the school pictures). We had a cool forested background instead of the standard mottled blue or grey. I don't know how it happened because my mom was a teacher at my school and would have known it was picture day, but instead of wearing a "picture outfit" I'm wearing a red t-shirt emblazoned with "Seattle's Child", which is a very long running liberal parenting publication in my hometown.

I love that picture because I was such a Seattle kid and so strongly self-identified with hometown. I still do in many ways, but after 26 years living there (which is a stretch because technically I was gone for college) I moved to....Tacoma. If you are from Seattle or Tacoma you understand the long running prejudices, rivalries, and attitudes between these two places and I will admit that I was guilty of many of them. My Seattle friends thought I'd lost my mind and moved to the hinterlands, but I'd finished school, met this guy Eric, and been offered a job, and all roads pointed to Tacoma so off I went. Eric and I ended getting married, and I still have my job, so it all worked out well. I also grew to love a lot about Tacoma, despite my Seattle background, but now I don't live in either city.

I live in Puyallup. Yes...we have a big fair.

Puyallup is where Eric grew up, and we were very fortunate to be able to build (well, he built) a house on the land where he did. It's a great house, and I will forever be impressed with and grateful to him for designing and building it. We did not plan to stay for very long, but we had the Magpie, and the real estate market tanked, and it's still a great house (really, it's red, and it feels like a treehouse), so here we are. Some benefits of this include:

1) We live close to some of Eric's oldest friends.
2) We have a fantastic wine shop.
3) We have a great seasonal farmers market and all kinds of local food options, including the 20-plus year of organic CSA of which we were members for almost 3 years.

That last one brings to me the best thing that living in Puyallup has done for me.

I was pretty much drowning in cruddy black plastic nursery pots because one of the not great things about Puyallup is our terrible curbside recycle program, which does not even accept glass and still won't take most plastics (really, in 2011?). Technically this is Pierce County's problem, but still, it's ridiculous and frustrating. Point being, I couldn't bear to throw the things away and asked some really nice guys's we'd met who were selling potted plants at the farmers market if they'd be able to re-use them. They agreed, but I think they thought I was talking about 20 or 30 pots and when I showed up with 100s of them I am pretty sure they just took them all to be nice. But it started a friendship that lead to this amazing opportunity for our family.

First, the guys ask if we'd be interesting in helping them butcher some lambs. Actually, the first question was "You like lamb, right?" to which we answered YES, we served it at our wedding and only people who REALLY like lamb would do that. So, yes, we like and yes, Eric grew up on a farm and has been around butchering and of course, we are interested because I'm obsessed with reading about food and food issues and locovorism and knowing where you meat comes from and on and on and so yes, we'd like to do that.

So we did. Actually, Eric did. I had the baby Magpie, but I watched and brought food for the crew and oh my goodness we'd never had lamb so delicious. And we knew exactly how they'd lived, died, and been broken down, all of which were far better than anything you'd see at the local grocery. Any time these guys wanted help we'd do it. And we did. Not just us, my dad helped with turkeys. Eric helped with lambs. They also had a pretty amazing garden space, both flowers for market and a bounty of vegetables, so I "helped" by taking god knows how many pounds of tomatos and winging some frozen sauce (can you say lambsagna? I sure can).

Anyhow, fast forward to early last year when we signed up with some other great people to experiment with the idea of having the guys host a small farm co-op. Small like 10 people (including my parents), but bears no resemblance to our group ambition, eventual garden space, zucchini production, or our big ideas about PIGS. Oh, the pigs...a well-meaning idea that will not be repeated, not that I'm the least bit unhappy about the 10 lbs of home-made pancetta in my freezer. The co-op, which I usually just call the Farm, has been amazing. Great friends, awesome food, one learning experience after another, and the most fantastic place ever for the Magpie.

I did a terrible job of documenting year 1 at the farm. I have pictures, most of which are still on our camera, but I did not stick to my Picasa program so perhaps I'll post a few history pictures soon. A great part of this blog is to document year 2.

This year we will be smarter.

This year will be easier.

This year no bigs, and less zucchini.

And perhaps more wine (bottled some today).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Magpie Rules?

Magpie is one of my daughter's many nicknames. My sister came up with it when she was an infant and I love it because it's a dual reference to both my child and myself. Like many parents, my husband and I are pretty proud of our kid, hence Magpie Rules. Again like many parents, we find that she controls much of our lives - Magpie's Rules. Finally, we attempt to control (perhaps guide?) her, and come up even more Magpie Rules. So works in a number of ways.

But mostly, I needed to come up with a name for this blog and didn't want it to be so specific that it tied the content to any one thing. We have a lot going on that I hope to document here (and I do mean document in the barest sense - anyone who knows my Picasa record won't expect much!) Perhaps I went too general, but as I expect a sum total of fewer than ten follows, mostly comprised of family and friends abroad, I don't expect it to affect my readership.

What do I hope to document? Well, there's the family. And then there's food (novel, right?) And there's this really cool farming thing that we do - in all honesty, that's the one I'm really hoping to capture. But there may be more if I just be disciplined about the writing part. Photos, well, that may be too much to hope for...but goals are good, right?