Monday, July 19, 2010

Celt's Garden - Favas and Everson Farm Stands

The green fava beans are swelling in their pods. Ah, shelly fava beans simmered with garlic scapes or green garlic. Harvest the bottom favas first. If you leave them, they will turn into dry beans, but it will take until late August. As they age, the beans first develop a tough outer skin, which slides off after cooking. Then they harden into dry beans. The pods dry and shatter, so you want to get your favas in as soon as the beans are hard and let them finish drying under cover. Then you can store them or save the seed for your own cover crop.

After they are dry, clean your beans by taking the pods off and then putting the beans in a sifter or sieve and shaking off the dust, pod debris and bug bits. A simple hand sifter available at ethnic grocery stores works well. Home dried beans may have a little bug action. A simple fix is to seal them up in a waterproof container and freeze them for a couple of weeks. Then let them come up to room temperature in the unopened container and transfer them to a jar. A bay leaf in the jar with your beans will keep the bugs away.

Check your home dried beans monthly and plan to eat them over the winter. It's difficult to get beans down to a uniform low moisture level at home. If they get a little yellow powdery mold on the beans in storage, it's not toxic but the shelf life is over. Check over and remove any funky ones, rinse off the powder and cook them up. You can freeze the extra.

If you have some European ancestors, fava beans are your heritage. The old world beans are favas, peas, lentils and chickpeas, all originating in a large blob area in southwest Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. Favas, peas and lentils are cool weather beans. This is great for the Northwest. We have lots of coolish weather. The Palouse, which overlaps eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho, grows most of the pulses for the whole country. The dry conditions discourage pulse diseases.

Fall planted favas may survive. I find they do better with a nurse crop of oats. Plant a mixed handful of oats and favas in November. It might turn out to be a cover crop instead of beans. In February, the main fava crop goes in for fresh and dried beans. Favas are upright, so you get a surprisingly good harvest from a garden bed. I plant Banner, which can go to six feet and sets heavy pods of smaller beans. Windsor is the traditional eating fava, but the big beans don't yield as much food per plant.

Lentils and chickpeas are delicate little vines. On a garden scale, they are mainly good for practice recognizing the different growth stages. The yield from a bed fits in your hands. Lentils were prized in the ancient world for their delicious taste. Lentils are such a bugger to harvest and clean that they must have also been grown for their value as a convenience food. They are the only pulse that cooks in under an hour.

Despite all the work involved in growing dried beans, they have always been a portable, long storing way to time shift food energy. Beans and pulses have 1500 calories a pound.

Everson has a new farm stand. Joy Monjure, a laid off City of Bellingham employee, opened Field of Greens at the bend where Everson Road turns into Kale Road on the way out of town. She's working with four local farmers to provide the fresh organic goodies. It's a tad tricky to find: slow down going around the curve. The entrance is through the mini-storage place, onto an apron of chips. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

The Breckenridge farm stand is at the other end of Everson on Main Street. The cream top (non-homogenized) milk was rated "that's really good" by my taste test panel. They also have butter, cream, and the best soft serve ice cream that I have ever had, made from their own milk. 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. M-S

Farther out of town is La Gloria Market at 7310 Everson Goshen Rd. A nice selection of spices, many varieties of chilis and dried goods in the back corner, groceries, Spanish language videos, Mexican style milk candy and soft pastries, run by very nice people. Just walking in the door induces Tex-Mex border culture deja vu all over again. Co-located with the market is Taqueria El, run by a cheerful Spanish speaking lady named Erin. Go figure. Erin makes everything from scratch, the salsas (mild and killer), the rice and beans, the fillings for the tacos and burritos. Taqueria El is worth a pilgrimage to Everson just for the salsa and Erin's real Tex Mex tacos. Not large, not expensive, just flavorful grilled meat on a double corn tortilla with a fresh garnish. Excellent burritos in the Northwest tradition (if you can eat the whole thing, you're either working hard with your hands or nursing a baby.)

Check it out.

Previously posted by Celt M. Schira on July 12, 2010 at For more recent posts, check out

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Celt's Garden - Start with a Live Chicken (Rated NV)

That would be rated NV for No Vegans. No 12 year old girls either, who are shocked, just shocked, to find out that meat comes from DEAD ANIMALS and spend the next ten years living on spaghetti with plain Marinara sauce and Cheetos. Vegans, perhaps you would like to check out "That French Feeling" which is a nice earlier post about growing herbs.
To go from live chicken to dead chicken, first you have to catch the chicken. This can be tricky, as chickens are telepathic about being approached with a sense of purpose. Food works sometimes, but your best bet is herding the chicken into a corner. If you have control over the birds' last night, it's best to segregate them about the time you would be locking them up for the night and don't feed them in morning. That gives them a chance to calm down after the catching. Starving the chickens overnight makes cleaning them a lot less disgusting.

In the morning, set up your work area. You will need a place to kill the chickens, a large pot of almost boiling water to get the feathers off (your canning kettle is a good size), a very sharp large knife, a work surface that you can keep clean, a small pair of needle nose pliers, a covered container for the guts, another container for the feathers, and a bowl for the innards. If you are refrigerating or freezing your chickens, a cooler of ice water to quickly bring down the body temperature is very helpful.

For one or two birds, killing them outside and plucking and cleaning them in the kitchen sink works fine. For a big chicken killing day, an outside work area is much easier to clean up afterwards.

Here's my method for killing chickens: one at a time, hang the bird securely by its feet. It will flop around a lot, so I wire it up with piece of electrical cable. Being upside down sedates the chicken. Then hold the head firmly and thank the chicken. If you feel too self-conscious thanking an upside-down chicken, take a minute to reflect on the oneness of all being, or bless the chicken. I am partial to "Blessed are you, the source of all life", which is not from any organized religion. Not addressed to the chicken, of course.

Then take the knife and quickly cut its throat. Watch out for your knuckles. Hold on to the head. The wings will flap furiously. The wing flapping helps to pump out the blood, which you want for better meat. After scrubbing chicken blood off vinyl siding, I learned to keep holding the head during the flapping stage and just let the warm blood run down over my hand. It's respectful to the chicken. You're not twelve years old, right?

If the chicken gets loose, you will have a graphic example of the expression "run around like a chicken with its head cut off." This is bad, because you want to keep the wound clean and have the chicken rapidly bleed out. It's also a big mess.

Other methods for killing chickens can be found on you-tube. The one of the two good old boys, fairly lit up on beer, using an orange traffic cone to hold the chickens, is at least good for entertainment value.

Once your bird stops flapping, take it down and cut off the head the rest of the way. Hold it by the feet and immediately dunk it in a large pot of water just off the boil. The hotter the water, the easy to pull the feathers off. Grab handfuls of feathers and stuff them into the receptacle which you conveniently staged during set-up. Get off as much as you can, using the pliers to pull out the wing feathers as needed. Then cut off the feet and put them in the offal container. There will be pinfeathers left on. Best to clean the guts out before rigor mortis sets in and come back later for the pin feathers.

The chicken is starting to resemble something you would buy at a supermarket. Take a sharp knife and cut carefully around the anus, being careful not to pierce the intestines. Make a shallow cut from thigh to thigh to increase the opening. Now, reach in and remove the guts. You're still not twelve years old, right? Gently reach up the back of the opening and pull out the insides. Here's where starving the chickens overnight really helps. The intestines go in the offal can.

The liver looks just like what comes in those little paper packets inside a purchased chicken, except that it's attached to the gall bladder. The gall bladder is full of green bile, which will ruin the liver if it ruptures and spills. Carefully cut off the gall bladder and set aside the liver in the bowl. The heart is recognizable, set it aside as well. The gizzard is a large nasty looking ball that holds gravel. Chickens have no teeth; they digest food by grinding it up in the gizzard. Slice the gizzard along the equator and open it up inside out. Pull out the gravel and food remains. There is a tough membranous yellow muscle covering the gizzard. Peel it off and put the gizzard into your useful parts bowl. Sometimes the lungs will partially adhere to the inside. It's not a problem. If you have ever wondered what that stuff is on the inside back of a purchased chicken, it's lungs. Cut off the neck and set it aside. Remove the crop, the sack the chicken holds food in. 

If you are butchering an old layer, you will get quite a bit of egg laying apparatus out. You may find a fully formed egg. The egg is fine to eat, and the immature eggs are fine to use in cooking if you care to. Retired layers are mostly feathers, fuss and egg laying apparatus. There's not much meat on them, but they make superb soup.

Now, rinse off the chicken and use your pliers to remove the pinfeathers. This is the most time consuming part. If you are freezing or refrigerating the chicken, drop it in a cooler of ice water to cool down, then drain and package. If you are eating it immediately, cut up (if desired) and cook.

If you are butchering a retired layer or cull rooster, the best cooking method involves liquid and long, slow cooking. A true free range chicken is a tough bird. If you want to raise your own meat chickens, get a breed intended for the purpose. Plan to raise a batch to the age of 10-12 weeks and have a chicken butchering day.

In countries without refrigeration, the chickens run around until they are eaten. Authentic chicken curry and chicken tandoori recipes involve sauce and hours of cooking on low heat.

The feathers can go straight onto garden beds, or into the compost. The heart and gizzard can go into stock. The liver is delicious cooked up immediately. If you have a lot of livers, they freeze well.

Turkeys are butchered just the same way. I like to respect the bird's life by using every bit except the offal.

The first time butchering a bird takes a while, and an emotional readjustment from buying packaged, impersonal food. You will pick up speed with practice. Be sure to allow time for clean up and packaging and freezing your birds. If you have have household members who bond unduly with dinner, send them out while you do the deed. Otherwise, they may be so emotional as to be unable to eat the nice meal that you have worked so hard to prepare for them.

It is about impossible for a backyard chicken grower to sell a plucked and drawn bird legally in the State of Washington. However, if you buy (or get free) a live bird and butcher it yourself, the transaction is totally above board. You might be intending to to keep it for a pet, eh? There are folks who don't want to butcher the layers they have grown attached to, and don't want to keep feeding them in their dotage, either. Try to get the old girls for really cheap or free. There's not much to them, for the amount of work involved.

Liver and Eggs:
hard boiled egg
chicken or turkey liver
Slice onion, saute sliced onion and liver. When liver is brown outside, but still a bit pink in the center when sliced through, mince up liver, onions and hard boiled egg. Season with salt, thyme, savory and coarse black pepper. Originally a recipe for stretching a single liver to make an appetizer for many, this is excellent on crackers or toast rounds while you package up those birds for freezing.

If you have meat chickens or a purchased bird, you may want to cook up only the breast and legs for dinner, saving the neck, back and wings for stock. Reserve the heart and gizzard.
Put legs, neck and wings in a baking pan. Cook in a 300 degree F oven for an hour, turning halfway through. Put the meat pieces, heart, gizzard, a bay leaf, rosemary, thyme and savory in a four quart soup pot. Pour some water or wine into the bottom of the pan the chicken pieces baked in and scrape off the bits. Pour it into the pot and add water to cover. Simmer on very low for one hour. Strain out the pieces and remove the meat from the bones. Put the bones back in the pot, with a chunk of carrot, some celery and a piece of onion. Simmer for another 1-2 hours on very low heat. Strain out the broth. This makes about two quarts of stock. The meat and stock can be used to make soup immediately. Otherwise, use the meat in something strongly flavored, such as curry or tacos. It won't keep long.
Stock stores very nicely in quart canning jars in the fridge. Mayonnaise or spaghetti sauce jars are not recommended. I've had them literally burst at the seam, spraying boiling stock everywhere. A layer of fat will rise to the top of the jar as the broth cools. Don't disturb it. The fat seals air out and preserves your stock. When you are ready to use the stock, you can peel off the fat layer if you like. Traditionally, the schmaltz (the fat layer) was used to brown the onions and garlic for the soup. Home raised birds sometimes have a lot of yellow fat, which was used for cooking in the days before vegetable oils were readily available.
If you intend to freeze the stock, leave a full inch of head room in the jar and let it cool first in the refrigerator. Then put the jar in the freezer with the lid off. When it freezes solid, put the lid on. This keeps your jars from cracking.

Coq au Vin Rouge:
That extra rooster that came in the shipment
2-4 cups red wine
plentiful garlic, carrots, onions, black peppercorns, rosemary and a bay leaf
A crock pot or heavy soup pot.
Butcher rooster. Assemble rooster and other ingredients in the pot. Add stock or water to cover. Cook a long time on very low heat, adding more water if needed, until the meat falls off the bones.
Serve meat and broth over cooked egg noodles or red potatoes. Amazing.

Consult the Joy of Cooking, Rodale's Basic Natural Foods Cookbook, or other general purpose cookbook for directions on freezing your birds.

Previously posted by Celt M. Schira at on July 3, 2010. For recent posts, see

Celt's Garden - Cheap Garlic Tricks

It's time to go out and snap off those cute curly garlic scapes. You want the plant to be frustrated in its reproductive mission and direct its photosynthesis into making a bulb. The bulb stores energy for another try next year, unless you get there first and put it into the spaghetti. The scapes have become quite the high priced delicacy, a side benefit of growing your own. It's also time to hill up the potatoes. This means burying the stems so that the plant will grow more tubers. Otherwise, you get all top growth and few spuds.

Your early garlic may be ready to harvest. When the stems fall over, any growth that is going to happen has already happened. Growers harvest the field when half the stems have fallen over. Gardeners can be picky and get their garlic as it is ready. You want to catch the bulb at that point where it is fully mature, but the top has not yet opened up. Open tops allow dirt to get in among the cloves. Wash those ones off and use immediately; they won't keep. When you have the bulbs out of the ground, brush off most of the dirt and lay it out, stalk and all, on newspaper indoors or in a covered porch. If you have a well-ventilated barn with an elevated drying rack, more power to you, but then you hardly need tips from me.

The main season hard neck garlic comes on in August. We're getting the early soft neck varieties now. If you are looking for an early garlic, try planting Chinese Pink from Territorial in October for an early summer harvest next year.

Garlic comes in soft neck and hard neck types. The soft neck varieties keep longer. That's the ones that can be braided. To braid your garlic, lay it out and let it dry until the tops are no longer green but not completely shriveled. Clean off the dirt as it dries. Then start with three bulbs at the top. Cross the stems just like braiding your kid's hair, adding another bulb with each cross. Cinch the bulbs up good and tight as you braid, because the stems will continue to shrink as they complete the drying. When the braid is as heavy as you want (over enthusiasm results in a braid heavy enough to pull the hook out of the wall), finish braiding the stems and put a knot in the end to hold the braid together. Or decorate with a calico ribbon and some rosemary branches, if you want to impress your friends.

With a little practice, you will be making very nice garlic braids. The point of this work is to get the garlic in a compact form where it can be hung up in a well- ventilated spot with sufficient humidity. Your kitchen out of direct sunlight is an excellent spot. I keep mine in the basement.

Hard neck garlic has stems too tough to braid. For storage, pick the best ones and lay them, stems and all, to dry. The stems will shrivel, but leave them on so that the bulb cures properly. As they dry, clean off the dirt. When the stems are fully dry and the bulbs resemble something you would buy in a store, clip off the stems and store the bulbs someplace well-ventilated. A small net bag hung on the wall works well.

Besides the pricey scapes (excellent in stir-fried dishes), you can use the bulbs and stems that are too small, oddly shaped, or have open bulbs. Cut off the bulbs to use fresh.

The stems are hard and fibrous. Here's Walter Haugen's garlic stock recipe:

Clean off the dirt and shriveled leaves from the stem. Cut into short pieces. Use fresh, or freeze the pieces. When you want to make garlic stock, pull several stem pieces in a pan with some water and simmer. Use immediately, or keeps in the fridge for several days.

Garlic is a notorious source of contamination in preservation. To use garlic in pickles, peel the cloves and cut off the heel. Then clean up any dirt on the counter before going any further. Rinse off the cloves.

Here's a five-minute garlic dill:

Scrub pickling cukes thoroughly with a soft brush. Get your steam canner ready to go, and fill the reservoir with boiling water. Pack cukes into scalded jars with a dill head and one or more garlic cloves in each jar. Add pepper corns, a bay leaf, an optional small hot pepper and 1 level teaspoon of kosher salt per quart jar. Pour in boiling white wine vinegar until the jar is half full. Add boiling water to fill within a half inch of the top. Seal with scalded lids. Process in a steam canner for 5 minutes.

If you are up in the north country around Birch Bay, check out the Farmer's Market. Local meats (Keizer, buffalo, Farmer's Market house brand), fish (Barleans), poultry, dairy (Edaleen, Twin Brook, Appel Farm cheese), Barb's pies (Ferndale), honey (Guillumette's), knitted items, two local coffee roasters, bulk beans and rice, garden center, gifts, huge decorative clay flower pots (Mexico and Thailand). Plenty of vegetables and fruits. The fruits and vegetables are conventional and predominantly from elsewhere, but they look good.

The new owner might be open to carrying more local fruit and vegetables in season. John Sheehan, owner of Sundance Beef, purchased the Farmer's Market from Terry Smith and will be renaming it The Sundance Market. The place is larger than it looks from the road, and has more stuff in it than can be comprehended in one visit. The market has 10,000 square feet, which is the size of a supermarket in the 1960's. The Smiths added a huge pole barn last year, so business must be good.

A word to the entrepreneurs out there: they could use more local value added products, such as soap, herb teas, pasta, salad dressings, salsa etc.

Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 3591 Birch Bay Lynden Rd, Custer, WA 98240.

Buffalo Link Soup (Buffalo Beenie-Weenie)

Soak 1 cup small white navy beans in water to cover over night and simmer until tender, keeping just enough water to cover.
Slice and brown a small onion and the buffalo links in a soup pot. Cut up the links.
Add 1 quart garlic stock (or other stock), savory, thyme, a bay leaf, cooked beans and 1/4 cup tomato paste, and simmer it all together for a bit.

For a fast workday meal, make garlic stock and cook beans ahead of time and store in the fridge. The then whole soup goes together quickly. Buffalo links are really good. A bit pricey, but one package can be divided to make two batches of soup. It's actually better that way, with a higher bean proportion to balance the rich flavor of the links.

Previously posted by Celt M. Schira at on June 24, 2010. For recent posts, see

Celt's Garden - Moo Juice Season

"Wow, that is really good. That tastes so creamy!" "Now, that tastes like the milk we used to get out of the tank back on the dairy farm." Jackie's Jersey milk got raves from my taste test panel. Jackie's Jerseys (Terra Organica, Coop, Sumas IGA) is a dairy farm with 18 cows, all Jerseys. Eighteen cows is too many to be a hobby and nowhere near enough for a conventional dairy. The normal conventional dairy in Whatcom county has 500 - 600 cows. In California, dairies can have 10,000 cows.

To help visualize this cow, Elsie, the mascot of Borden's cheese familiar from the label, is a Jersey. (Despite Elsie's mug on the package, Borden's cheese tastes like glue.) Jerseys are small (800 to 1200 pounds) brown to grey girls, beloved for their sweet temperament and high-butterfat milk. They have very good grazing efficiency due to their small size, which means that it is possible to pack more Jerseys on a pasture and actually get more for the milk from the same area.

That genderless bovine on the Whatcom Transport Authority bus is a Holstein heifer, a young female whose udder will be noticeable after she calves, technically called a Holstein-Friesian. The familiar black and white Holstein is the mass market milk cow. Holsteins were brought to the U.S. in the 1850's and have been the dairy industry's cow of choice since. They remain popular because they produce abundant milk on grass. Which is interesting, because the big California dairies don't actually feed the cows on grass.

Holsteins have been bred to give astonishing milk production, in the neighborhood of twenty gallons of milk a day. There has been concern about using recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) to boost milk production even higher. By comparison, the famous prize cow in Ten Acres Enough (written in the 1860's, available in the library, well worth reading) gave five gallons a day and she was legendary throughout the whole county. All that hyped up milk production is hard on the cow. Modern Holsteins have a productive life of 4-6 years. In the 1920's, cows were expected to give 4 gallons of milk a day (already up from 1860 averages) and had a productive life of 12-14 years.

All of which would just be more about cows than you really wanted to know, except that Jackie's Jerseys got in trouble with the Raw Milk Police. There is no way to have a conventional dairy business model with 18 Jersey cows. However, Jackie's does raw milk, and it's really good stuff. They are targeting a niche market and the Raw Milk Police targeted them. Two people in Washington State got sick from e-coli recently. There was no evidence that the e-coli came from Jackie's milk, but it was the only thing that the investigation could find in common. Hence Jackie's was in big trouble.

This happens all too often. Joel Salatin tells exactly the same story of raw milk producers in Virginia in "Everything I Want to Do is Illegal". If anyone gets sick from e-coli, the milk is blamed, even though they could have contacted the bacteria cleaning up dog poop on the street or any number of other ways. If the dairy survives the investigation, the publicity alone may put them out of business. Grace Harbor went out of the raw milk business after an e-coli incident and even got rid of their cows for years.

When I heard about the e-coli incident, I ran out and bought a half gallon of Jackie's milk. It was such a hit, I plan to keep buying it.

It is seldom pointed out in e-coli scares that the human digestive system processes small amounts of e-coli very well. There were no Health Department inspectors checking the milk in our thousands of years of pastoralism. We are co-evolved with the little critters.

However, cows evolved to eat grass. Normal cow digestive system e-coli eats the grass the cows eat, breaking down the cellulose into vinegar. When cows are fed a high grain diet, they develop a different strain of intestinal flora. We are not adapted to it, and it can be lethal to persons with compromised immune systems. In California, the dry conditions allow keeping mind boggling numbers of cows. They are fed plenty of grain to keep milk production high. One dairy cow produces 148 pounds a day of manure. The poop product of 10,000 cows is difficult to imagine. In California, runoff from monoculture dairy production in a desert contaminated the irrigation water used for monoculture spinach production in the desert and bagged spinach sickened people all over the country.

What to do, besides staying away from vegetables that come packed in little bags of nitrogen? The local milk is very good right now. The rainy weather grew excellent grass. The taste test panel also really liked Fresh Breeze, which jumps through all the hoops to maintain organic certification and Twin Brook, which is "98% organic practices but paperwork free". Local conventional dairy Edaleen's milk was judged so far superior to Haggen's store brand (both available through WIC) that taste tester's shopping habits have changed.

Jackie's beat the rap. The State of Washington was able to identify the culprit DNA strain and it was not from Jackie's. Grace Harbor is back in the cow business, with a really good yogurt. Yogurt is a pasteurized product, unless of course you make it yourself from the other half of a container of raw milk.

1 quart raw milk
1 cup commercial yogurt (look for the label "contains live cultures", you want the bugs)
or 1 envelope yogurt culture (look for Yogourmet brand)
dial immersion thermometer (Cash and Carry, an excellent investment)

Warm milk to 120 - 130 degrees F. Ignore all propaganda about higher temperatures, otherwise why buy raw milk in the first place. 

Allow to cool to 110 degrees. The really organized recommend immersing the pot into a larger pot filled with ice water for rapid cooling. This resembles work, so I generally just let it sit there and cool off. Add culture. Ideally, keep around 80 degrees for six hours until it sets. I put the oven on warm, then turn it off and set the pot in there. 

This produces a thinner yogurt than commercial products, more like a yogurt drink. Attention to detail (rapid cooling, keeping it warm during culturing) will result in a somewhat firmer product. Flavor with a little vanilla and sugar or maple syrup, if desired. Really good stuff. Smash up some fresh strawberries and stir in the yogurt for an amazing beverage.

Previously posted by Celt M. Schira at on June 21, 2010. For recent posts, see

Celt's Garden - Crunch Time in the Garden

The summer garden planting time is upon us, and a right good trick it is. In between the downpours, it's time to rush out and plant tomatoes, peppers, basil, summer and winter squashes, sweet corn, beans and cucumbers. Those brave and blessed with a good microclimate may try some northern adapted melons. Russian Collective Farm Woman melon is my choice this year. Last year, I planted a French heirloom cantaloupe thingy and got a half dozen drippingly sweet softball sized melons. The full force of weather off Bellingham Bay hits my garden, and melons are a stretch.

It's also time to get the big brassicas that will take you through the winter started in little pots to transplant in six weeks: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts. Look for broccoli and cabbages that say fall, winter, overwintering in the description, such as January King cabbage and Purple Sprouting broccoli (a show stopper, that one.)

We could use a dry stretch to get the herbs harvested. They are flowering, or just about to flower. That early flowering stage is just what you want. Wait until the dew has dried on the herbs to pick them. Late morning, or an overcast day, after a night without rain is best, but it's to the point that soon we'll have to get them in as best as we can, and spread them to dry on the dining table if necessary. Try to avoid the really soggy stage, because the herbs tend to mold instead of drying. The lavender is just budding out. For potpourri and medicinal use, harvest the lavender when the buds are fat but still unopened.

Meanwhile, the garden is trying to revert to temperate rain forest. Blackberries are springing up in the lawn. Small trees are sprouting among the shrubs. The weeds are waist-high. In last year's seed production beds, there is a sudden abundance of kale, a mat of stringy volunteer beets coming up too close, a thicket of radishes already bolted and flowering. No doubt your lawn, or what is left after you put a garden on it, is reaching for the sky as well.

While you're doing all that gardening and keeping up with your day job, strawberry season is upon us. The map of u-pick berry farms from Sunday's paper is on line at There too, a dry day is best, because wet berries mold. Sometimes they mold before you can get them home.

As you are up late stirring jam before getting up early to start work the next day, it may cross your mind to wonder why bother putting in hours planting, drying herbs and jamming up on top of everything else you already have going. Good question. I ask myself this every year, particularly when it's past bedtime and I still have jars to fill and process. Then in winter, I crack open a jar of homemade jam and the fragrance of strawberry fields in June fills the air. Could I buy organic broccoli in winter and artisan preserves as good as homemade? Sure, but then I'd have to make twice as much. Far better to spend the time here than driving I-5 to some techno-geek job in Seattle. I did that for a while, and decided that with the garden as part of my business plan, I had far less stress and about the same take home income, after the cost and time of commuting. Besides, it's difficult to get laid off from gardening.

Go for it.

And, hey hey, if your potatoes are flowering, the new potatoes are ready. Reach in, feel around, and taste the summer.

Previously posted by Celt M. Schira at on June 10, 2010. For recent posts, see