Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cathy's Magic Garden

Seeds have been ordered. It's a fairly exhausting process as we cruise from catalog to catalog, looking for the best variety at the best price. Some comments heard around the catalog-filled table:

From practical son B.: "This would be so much easier if we didn't have to think about price." From visionary son K.: "Just order it; we're going to grow a lot!" From Farmer K.: "Well now, you don't want to overextend yourselves!". From impractical Farmerette Cathy: "Ooh, look how pretty these are; can we grow them??" ( Around the table, eyes roll.)

Yes, I fear my seed ordering choices run toward the colorful and the bizarre. I also think a variety with a really interesting name definitely bears consideration, but my suggestions are generally overruled in the name of efficiency and practicality. (Except, hey, we're organic growers - how practical is that?!) So I invite you into my magic garden; it's right over here - right through this gate.....(cue harp music)

"Wow! This place is amazing! Look at all the colors! What kind of pole beans are these? They look like worms!"

"Oh, those are Red Noodles - burgundy yard-long beans. They're really tasty. Aren't they cool?"

"Well, yeah, I guess. But what's in this whole field of beans? There must be an acre of them!"

"Oh those are Christmas Lima Beans. I'm growing them for my pal, Kim. Aren't they pretty - all stripey green and red? We can't grow them for the stall, so I planted a bunch in my magic garden!"

"Okay, what about over here - these eggplant look so small!"

Yep, they're baby eggplant. These purple ones are called Hansel and the white ones are Gretel. And the purple and white striped? How could I resist - they're called Fairy Tale! I had to grow them all - don't they look cute together?"

I guess, but here's a big eggplant."

"That's Rosa Bianca - I just like to say the name. Say it! Ro-sa Bee-ahn-ka. Isn't that fun? It actually is one of the most beautiful eggplants ever, with its pinky purple fruit all striped with white and violet. Tastes yummy too. Unfortunately, it doesn't ripen well in our climate, but in my magic garden it does just fine!"

"Wow, where's all that music coming from??"

"Oh that's my Carrots Rock section. These really dark purple ones are called Purple Rain. And the purple ones with orange centers are Purple Haze. The white ones? They're called White Satin. Don't they sound good together?" (Points to any reader who identifies the artists associated with each of these varieties!)

"And there's more music over here!"

"Yeah, I call that area Hernando's Hideaway; they just sort of found each other. It's Tango lettuce, Bolero carrots, Carmen peppers and Conquistador celery. They dance to the music for a while and then there's salad!"

"Aww, come on - you're kidding. OW!!!"

"Oh sorry, we must be near the Naughty but Nice section. Somebody probably threw a Winged Gourd. I love those gourds, but they're hard to control. Let's come over here and see what mischief they're all up to."

"Brussels sprouts? What trouble could Brussels Sprouts possibly make?"

"Well, you see, they're Diablo brussels sprouts, and they do keep hanging out with the Merlin beets and the Envy green soybeans. They can all definitely cook up some tasty trouble! The Tongue of Fire shell beans usually show up when things start simmering. Add a little Eros endive and when the Sugar Buns corn waltzes in, I just have to turn my head."

Oh, okay. Oops! Oh, sorry, I guess I tripped."

"Oh yes, it's hard to see the squash down there. I couldn't resist that one. When a vegetable has a "mottled appearance resembling a frog's skin" and then gets named 'Bliss", well, I have to support such fearless labeling."

"Is this another squash?"

No, we're in the melon section. This is a butterscotch melon; what do you think about a cantaloupe with a "flavor suggestive of butterscotch"? I know it looks funny, but a butterscotch flavored melon?! How sweet is that!? And this is Sorbet Swirl watermelon - look at all those swirls of orange and red sweetness inside; here have a slice!"

"Yummmm - this is magic! Anything else?"

"Well, right through this gate...come on!"

"Wow! Flowers! And flowers and flowers! Every color and size - I can't see the end of them! Do you really grow this many flowers?"

"Oh sure, in my magic garden I do! Come on over to the Hot Biscuits Amaranthus!!".....(cue harp music).

"CATHY! Wake up! We need to finish this order? Is there anything we missed?"

"Oh! Oh yeah, let me see...oh, here's something! How about Happy Rich mini broccoli? Look how cute it is! And with a name like Happy Rich, it has to be a winner, don't you think?"

Around the table, eyes roll.

(Many thanks to Johnny's Selected Seeds, an employee-owned seed company with the gumption to carry these creative varieties alongside the bread-and-butter veggie seeds that pay the bills. Check them out at

And thanks for visiting my magic garden - come back any time!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hoophouse Memorial

In May 2008, Kim Bayer visited the farm for the first time. Kim is a food blogger extraordinaire and I suggest you follow this link to her blog right now and settle in for some tasty reading.

Okay, you back? Well, Kim's blog about the visit unfortunately got eaten by her server. But she still had copies of the photos, so I appreciate her sending the only existing photo of our dear departed hoophouse. (See Frog Log 1/12/09) The tomatoes were just babies in May; they eventually grew to fill the entire structure in a jumbly jungle of vines and fruit.

Kim called it the Daniel Boone Hoophouse - a fitting acknowledgment of its woodsy, primitive frontier quality. Sadly, like the frontier, it is gone for good in this incarnation. We'll salvage what we can and make something out of the pieces. And I'll let you know when we do!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

S'no Big Deal

Picture one snowflake. One tiny snowflake landing on your mitten or a sparkle of cold on your outstretched tongue. One weightless atom of ice crystals drifting earthward. And then another. And another. And another. And another. And...

As I leaned with all my might into the snowy mass that was bulging the greenhouse plastic wall inward, I wondered just how many snowflakes I wrestled with. As many as dollars in the bailout? As in both bailouts? As in the National Debt?? Just how many of those little mites did it take to make a solid wall of snow that I could not budge.

And budge it had to. Son K. and I were standing in the warm kitchen discussing lunch possibilities when son B. stuck his head in the door and, in his calm understated manner, mentioned that we might lose the greenhouse if we didn't clear some snow away - better get some brooms and shovels and come out.

From the previous Frog Log, you can see that we can't stand to lose another greenhouse. The snow had surprised us with its intensity that day and as it continued to pile up, the plastic greenhouse walls were starting to feel it.
We didn't want to lose this one.

You can probably understand where shovels fit in, but brooms? Well, take your broom inside the greenhouse and use the soft end to press back against the plastic sections that are starting to sag. Start at the top, and as you release the upper section of snow, it will cascade down the curved wall, taking the rest of the snow with it. And so it goes, section after section.

In the pictures you can see two side-by-side sections, one covered with snow, the other released of its burden. You can also see son K. putting the broom method to good use.

Of course after all that snow slides down, it rests in a high pile at the side of the greenhouse. And that's the absolutely immovable object to which I applied my shoulder. Useless. I could press the mass away an inch or two, but not enough for it to fall away. As soon as I released my effort, it would just settle comfortably back into the sling of plastic that its million-flaked mass had created. Human 0, Nature 1.

So next we go outside and try to shovel those drifts away from the walls. You can see a photo of how the greenhouse looked as it was on its way to being buried in snow. Amidst the swirling snowfall we attacked those drifts with shovel, broom, and finally our hands to paw and claw at the piles that had hardened into an icy ridge. Just us against the elements with our puny tools. I was back in the Ice Age, grunting to Ork to clear the cave entrance with his club.

But what's that sound in the distance, Ork? The thunder gods? Round the corner of the greenhouse, son B. roars up on the backhoe, deftly shaving snow slices from the snowbanks that had resisted our first volleys. In a short time, the snow sits tamely in nondescript piles at the base of the greenhouse walls. Jupiter makes inspection of one side of the structure and declares it a job well done. Machines 1, Nature...well, she'll be back!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kind of a Bummer

In my New Year's 'blogolution', I described this blog as depicting "the cares and concerns of a working small organic farm." Well, here's a concern all right! You can probably tell from these photos that something is very very broken. And it's something that was big.

(Jupiter went out with me to survey the damage so I had to include him in an obviously sympathizing mode.)

Yes, it's our hoophouse that was bursting with juicy tomatoes really not all that long ago. In one of the photos you can see our greenhouse through the wreckage of the hoophouse; the greenhouse and hoophouse were the same size. (Greenhouse: heated with solid "endwalls" and ventilation system. Hoophouse: basically plastic stretched over a frame - no auxiliary heat but still warming the plants nicely in early spring and late fall.)

We had gone to bed to dire predictions of (another!) snowstorm, but not a flake to be seen. A neighbor was up at 3:30 AM - still no snow. Somewhere between 4:00 and 6:00 AM the skies opened, a heavy snow blanket was dropped, and the freezing rain sealed the deal. We woke up to a beached whale on our hillside.

We probably can't rebuild this. It was actually handmade with lumber milled at the farm from cedars cleared for our land restoration. One of a kind. Farmer K., who built it, mutters about rebuilding in the Spring. Practical son, B., is thumbing through the Farmtek catalog. "Hoophouse" just went on the Frog Holler To Do List, which practical son typed and handed out today. The list is long; and before we know it Spring will come sliding in on the tail end of those Winter winds. There is much to do.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Taking a winter break

Blogs seem pretty empty these days without photos or graphics; your average two-year-old is posting photo albums to Flickr and videos to Facebook. Although I lag behind the techno learning curve, I did head outside with our digital camera to take a photo for this blog.

Well, the good old-fashioned batteries had run down, so that photo will have to wait. But I could say I had taken a photo and posted it because I was back behind the barn and everything was white. It was snowing - again.

So, as we head into the mid-January deep freeze, how 'bout a photo from last summer at Holler Fest to remind us of sunny days, warm summer evenings, shorts and t-shirts, and the carefree lightness of picnicking in the grass while the music plays.

To see more photos and video from Holler Fest 2008 (yeah, I found a two-year-old to download them), go to and enjoy a little vacation! Holler Fest 2009 is set for August 21-23.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Okay, three months to the day since my last blog. The world has continued to spin just fine without the weight of my added words. And actually the blogosphere is getting a bit crowded. But I do resolve to return to this blog. My original intent, from which I have occasionally strayed, is to depict the cares and concerns of a working small organic farm. As we round the horn into 2009, we look ahead to the seed order, preparing to make it in faith, knowing full well that the future is uncertain, the days may be short, but there is still nothing to do but plant a seed and look up.

Holler Fest 2016
August 26-28