Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Temperature comparison re: Dec 1st

What a big difference...

2008: max. 10.3c, min. 6.7c
2007: max. 0.3c, min. -2.4c

Monday, December 1, 2008

What's going on?!

The garilcs have sprouted. They are tall enough to lift up the black fabric cover that we put down. That's how we noticed the sprouting...oh my goodness...I wonder when did they start sprouting...(right after I planted them?)

Based on the past two years of experience of growing garlic, and information that we read, the garlics are not supposed to sprout after the fall planting. They are supposed to stay nicely in the ground and come out in Feburary the following year, at least that's what happened for the past two years.

I did a historical weather data comparison for the month of November in 2007 and 2008. It shows that this November was 3c warmer than last year:

2007 min. -3.3C in Nov 22, 2008
2008 min. -0.3C in Nov 24, 2008

How scary is that!

No wonder I could still pick and munch on our raspgberries grown in our backyard today. Today is really warm also. I'll do a comparison of today's weather tomorrow.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunny days

It is such a treat to have sunny weather for more than a week now. There is not much going on in our backyard farm except the cleanup.

Three of the pole bean plants have been pulled down last week. One is still standing. Guess it'd better to leave it in the ground than having the beans sitting in the fridge. The cucumber plant is also down.

I also cleaned up all the garlics that were hanging under the patio (cut off the root and the stalk and brought the bulbs into the house). Meanwhile, since the weather is nice, I stuck 10 cloves somewhere in the front just for fun.

Today, Mark sowed some arugula seeds in the back and covered them in the coldframe.

The swiss chard is still growing strong and big since the summer. However, we haven't been eating them at all (besides the baby one that we use in salad). Is there a great recipe to cook swiss chard? I did some searches on the Internet but none of the recipes appeal to me. They look great in the ground, so maybe just let them be the decorative edible plant.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Summer summary

It is 1.40am, and I can't sleep.

I can't stop thinking about stuff, work-related issue is one of them. Also, the environment and all things considered. I watched the documentary Dolphin Dealer on TV tonight and the subject matter really disturbs me. Nothing is new as in the way human interacts with the wildlife, and how we exploit them in order to satisfy our greed. And then I think about the food issue, how we treat the land, produce and consume food in a way that leads to detrimental consequences.

Everyone can make a difference. I'm happy that we are growing our food, supporting local products and talking to people with the hope that our passion can influence them.

Let's do a summary of what we grew (and harvested) this summer:
  1. salad mix
  2. swiss chard
  3. kale
  4. pole bean
  5. snow pea
  6. shelling pea
  7. bush bean
  8. parsnip
  9. beet
  10. carrot
  11. tomatoes (roma, roman red stripped, sungold and lollipop)
  12. cucumber
  13. potatoe
  14. bok choy
  15. onion (red, walla walla, spring)
  16. garlic
  17. leek
  18. strawberry
  19. raspberry
  20. herbs (basil, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, chive, oregano etc)
  21. hop (to make beer)
Did I miss anything? Not bad for duplex backyard!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Planting garlic

This is the weekend after Thanksgiving, and the weather is very co-operative (max 10C, sunny), a perfect day to plant garlics.

This year, we decided to plant the garlic in the backyard. The area in which we plan to grow garlic still have some carrots in the ground, so we pull them out to clear the way. (yes, I have been making carrot cakes and having carrots in salad) Mark is responsible for laying the foundation! First is to dig deep into the soil to pull out as many morning glory roots as we can (we did it in the spring before planting but as we all know, you can't really get rid of them). Then we add our compost into the soil, and mix the soil with peat moss and blood meal.

Meanwhile, I select the big cloves from our garlic (I guess I've opened up dozens of garlic heads) and use them as seedlings. I guess I've planted about 150 cloves. Yes, that's A LOT of garlic. Do we need that many? No. But the process of growing is so enjoyable! And no store brought garlic can beat the flavor and quality of homegrown garlic.

Tonight dinner from the garden: salad with green (the fall sown arugula is coming out, plus baby swiss chard and lettuce from this summer), cucumber, sungold and red onion, pureed parship, stir fry carrots and corn (this is the only item from the farmer's market)

Oh, we also sowed a few bush bean seeds. Don't know what the name is...the seeds are from my in-law.

This is going to be our garlic patch. Carrots are all over the place.

These are the carrots that we pulled from the soon-to-be garlic patch. I've sown carrot seeds around the roma plants (carrots and tomatoes are good companion plants). These carrots are shaded by the tomato plants, so their size is very small)

Compost from our handsome homemade spinning compost bin

Opening up a garlic bulb to get big clove for planting

Planting in process

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tomatoes--the take down

All the roma tomato plants were taken down. I have collected all those which still green but healthy looking with the hope that they'll eventually turn green...or else we'll start looking for green tomato recipe. Unfortunately, after a week or so, all the green healthy looking tomatoes have turned blight anyway. We have to throw away at least half of all the grown tomatoes from our four roma plants. They looked so promising on the vine but they still ended up in the dumpster. It is depressing.

Some info about blight:

Monday, October 6, 2008

The rain

Did I ever get ready for the rain? NO! It has been raining constantly for the past few days and the tomatoes are getting blight. I spent the whole morning cutting the yellow leaves and leaves with brown/black spots, taking out the bad tomatoes, and savaging the still-looking-ok ones.

About half of the roma tomatoes are still hanging on the vine in green, one quarter went to the garbage due to the blight, and the other quarter in the fridge. The red one are stored in the fridge for up to a certain amount that I can do a batch of canning. Today is the day (I spent my day off doing the urban farm stuff!). There are enough to fill 6-one liter mason jar. Not too bad. I'm happy.

I also checked out the raspberry plants. We were only away for two days and without the daily checking, quite a few raspberries have started to get mould. I blamed on the rain...of course.

We got a chance to go mushroom hunting over the weekend. After a few hours of hunting in the forest, we found a few pounds of chanterelle. Not as much as we expected. I guess it is still a bit early for mushroom hunting as we usually go around Thanksgiving time. Still, the amount that we got is plenty enough for a few good meals. We're going to cook them with our homegrown leeks :). Yum!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Get ready for the rain

The weather has been mild and sunny these few days. However, I heard on the radio on my way home that rain will arrive starting tomorrow. So after I got home, I grabbed a few containers and started picking the sungold: ripe or half ripe. The sungold tends to split quickly in rainy condition. I think I've picked about 6 pints (not shown in pic). As for the roma...well, I've picked about 10, and two of the red stripped roman. The rest are definitely started to change...at least they are a bit yellowish.

After picking the tomatoes, I moved onto the raspberries. The raspberries which grows in the fall are much bigger and sweeter than the summer version. I can't remember when and how did we end up having two varieties of the raspberry plants.

I was out of town last week and I can't believe that the pole beans are in such an abundance. We have been eating a couple pounds of pole beans each days: stir frying them in home-grown onion and Thai bird chili (yes, most of them have turned red). The pole beans are picked right before the dinne. Not only they taste fantastic, they provide a sensational month feel that is absolutely missing from the store bought beans. It is a lot of fun to pick them also (treasure hunting)!

The garlic have been curing under the patio and they seem to do fine. However, I notice that mould is growing on the two bundles that were hanged closer to the wall. I have no idea why these garlics got the mould but not the others. I was really disappointed as I remember that these are the two bundles that showed the most white-ish outer skin. Fortunately, the mould doesn't affect the interior yet, so I cleaned them up right away and took them into the kitchen. And yes, I use them in our stir fry pole beans :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Potatoes--1st attempt

The branches of the potato plants have started to turn dry and yellow...looks like we can try to dig our hands into the soil to see if there is any goodies. We only searched through the surface area (not deeper than 4 inches) and found a few. We are in no hurry to investigate further as we are still trying hard to catch up with the food that are ready to be harvested in the backyard. The potatoes can stay in the soil a bit longer, we hope.

Aug 2, 2008

Sept 08, 2008

Sept 21, 2008

See the video for our searching attempt and the beautiful finger potatoes. Also, a clip of the pole bean is also included in it.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Oh la la! Two red striped roman have turned orange-red! Though the whole plant is still full of green tomato, these are our first two of this kind of tomato! I have no idea how they taste like but we had taste-tested our first roma of the year yesterday: cut the roma in four wedges, a little salt & pepper and olive oil, there you have it! We always celebrate our first roma this way, i.e. straight from the garden, simply prepared and max. enjoyment.

Thanks to the week long sunshine last week (over 20C!), quite a few tomatoes have started to change colour. The majority of them are still green. The sungold are doing good and we have them in our salad everyday. The weather forecast says cloud/rain will be moving in later this week. Our tomatoes will need to catch up real fast!

Despite of the nice weather, the chili plants seem to be dying...weak roots and leaves. So I didn't move the plants in and out over the past couple days. Today, the leaves seem to be standing up again. I guess the plants don't like to be moved. I'll keep them inside by the window.

The arugula and mache that were planted in late August are also started to grow. This is our first time trying to grow salad for the winter.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

sweet tomatoes

If one hasn't tried the sungold tomatoes, one will say the lollipop tomatoes really got the right name. It tastes sweet and there is no doubt about it. However, I have the fortune to taste sungold first and there is nothing (so far) that tastes so juicy sweet.

The lollipop is on the light sweet side whereas sungold gives you that WOW response once you pop it in your mouth. Sungold has this intensive sweetness and it is also much juicer. It is not recommended to eat it in two bites...and when you bite into it, you need to keep your mouth close or the juice will spill all over. And no, I'm not kidding.

See pic for the comparison. The yellow one is the lollipop.

Monday, September 8, 2008

shade of pink

This is the exciting moment...our roma are finally changing colour...at least 3 of them out of...maybe a 100.

We did a massive trimming a couple weeks ago in order to re-direct the plant energy into the existing fruits. All the roma are still in bright green and there is no sign of colour change. The weather was rainy and chilly over the past few weeks and hence some drastic actions needed to be done. Starting yesterday, the sun came back and the nice weather is supposed to stay with us for the rest of the week. This is fantastic news for the tomato!

I hanged out with Shino in the afternoon. She was so happy to be out there. Rubbing herself against the ground cover is her favorite. However, she is shy from the camera. So taking picture of her requires swift action.

Most of the sungold are still green. On average, there are only a few turn orange each day. Climate change definitely has a toll on the veggie.

Thai bird chili

It took a long time for the chili to come.

There were a lot of flowers blooming on the smaller plant during the summer but no chili. Then leaves fell off from the main stalk but new leaves keep growing on the top. Some tiny chilies finally appear. It is the larger chili plant that caught up with the growth and start producing chilies.

We have been taking the chili plants out on the patio during nice sunny days and bringing them back in the house at night. So far two chilies have turned red.

I think we didn't mention how we started the chili plant when the first chili pic was posted. Mark brought fresh Thai Bird chili from the store for cooking, and he saved the seeds and planted them in the pot. It was around March this year.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pole bean & dinner

Sinfonian asked about our pole bean harvest, so I went to take a few more pictures.

Though we play with the idea of keeping track of how much veggies we produce, we decided it isn't practical to do so. We pull a carrot, pick a few sungold tomatos or snack on the peas whenever we walk by the plant. It will be impossible to know exactly how much we grow. (we did count how many heads of garlic we harvested though!)

Since this is our first time to grow pole bean, we are very happy with the result. We don't pick them everyday, but there are enough for the two of us.

So here's the dinner menu (except the fish, everything is picked from the garden):
  • Mesclun green with sungold tomato, carrot, cucumber and chives
  • Steamed pole beans with chili (see chili post), tarragon and butter on bbq
  • Grilled eggplant
  • Grilled sardines (bought from the fishmonger down the street)
  • Homemade ice-cream
(oh, by the way, the ceramic platter is handmade also!)

The foil pouch (on the left of the pic) under the grill is our garden beets. We'll make a beet salad for the next day.

We watched the US Open (tennis) women's final during dinner and having sardines was a bad idea. There were so many bones to pick and I missed watching a lot of the great shots. However, sardines is good for you and I finished them all.

The eggplant on the menu is our first eggplant of the year. It takes much longer to grow than what the label says. The plant is also much shorter than I expected. It gets really bushy and there are a lot of flowers blooming but not many plants producing. Am I supposed to cut off some branches just like a tomato plant? Should I do some trimming? So far, they are a few of about 3 inches long. The mature size is 6 inches. Mark sliced the one that we picked into 4 slices. One slice fell into the grill, and now we got 3 small slices of homegrown eggplant. They surely taste good.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pole bean

August is the month when we are busy eating the veggies growing in our backyard, thus there is not much blogging going on (what an excuse!). However, I haven't forgotten to document the growth of our urban farm via photographs. So here are a few pictures to capture the growth of our pole bean:

Aug 02, 08 (three plants climbing)

Aug 16, 08 (baby pole beans)

Sept 05, 08
The three plants have climbed to the top of the patio. The plants have formed a pole bean wall. We need to use a ladder to harvest the beans.

Sept 05, 08
Pole bean has climbed up to the top to meet with the hops

And did I mention that they are delicious? Mark wraps the pole beans, fresh tarragon (from our planter) and butter with foil and steams the pouch on the grill. Absolutely fantastic!

Hop harvest

This weekend begins the hop harvest. I picked for a little bit Friday evening ... but the real work starts tomorrow. I have my friend Rob coming over to help. He's the guy that got me in to brewing, so he'll work in exchange for some hops.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summer look

Our urban farm is full swing! What a big contrast when comparing with the barren winter look.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Leek -- 2nd planting

New spaces are available for more planting after we took down all the shelling pea and snow pea. So we decide to go for some winter crops: purple broccoli (transplanted, started seedlings indoor) and leek (seedlings brought from the local nursery). Pic shows the leeks that I just transplanted today. Some of the leeks that were planted in this late spring are ready to eat. We just had our first 2008 leek yesterday.

The tomato plants are getting a bit bushy now. Among the four roma tomato plants, the one closest to the house is the biggest. A lot of flowers but not many fruits...but they are coming!

Another excitement is to see the Red striped roman. The physical look of the plant is very unhealthy. The branches are soft with no strength. Water nor fertilizer helps to improve the look, and yet the plant keeps growing. We figure that maybe that's the way the plants look. I only saw two tomatoes growing (have to look really hard to find them as they are "hidden" in the middle of the plant), but that's enough to raise my heartbeat.

Just a quick report on the pole bean...the report: see pic ;)

Hop Bracteoles

I should have been posting more often about the hops. Maybe when they reached the railing, twelve feet, or when the reached the arbor, thirty feet ... instead, they waited until today.

They've started to actually create bracteoles. These are the little cone like flowers that are actually used in beer. They will mature for about another month before we harvest them.

Dinner: Beet cucumber feta salad

So today we went to the Pride Parade. It was two o'clock before it was done and we were hungry, so we ate bar food ... it was very bad. I have nothing against bar food, but nowhere good was open, the place we ended up sucked badly. We felt so gross there was no way we were going to cook a nice full dinner.

Yesterday however, we roasted a nice pork rack over charcoal, and as is our habit, we roasted some roots at the same time. Both beets and potatos. The beets were ours, but the potatos were from the farmers market. So for dinner today we cut up the beets, half of one our cucumbers, one of our carrots and some chives. The dressing was a bog standard vinaigrette made from the beet juice, evoo, cider vinegar and white wine vinegar. To finish it, some local "Feta" cheese. Quoted since it's made from cows milk. I like it better than real feta actually. We've done this before with just the beets and cheese, and it's delicious. In the future I won't add carrot, it didn't suit the flavours or textures.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

misc update

It rained.

Veggies are growing fast during the past month, a month full of sunshine and nothing else. Flowers are coming out from the tomato plants. Then the rain came.

Hopefully the rain will not do much harm to the blooming plants.

The banana pepper plant has pepper of about 3 inches long now. A pretty slow growing plant. I wonder why my in-law's plant is tall and the peppers are big...?

Today, I also harvested all the shelling pea. Vines go to the compost. Nothing is wasted.

Ladybug in transformation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ice wax

I think we have harvested the ice wax bean twice, and that's about it. Not at high yield plant and the flavour is average. I wonder if it is related to the location of the plant. Though the instructor said the three plants can fit into the pot (cherry tomoato, bean and basil), as it turns out, it simply gets too crowded. Having said that, it is our first time to grow bush bean and we are happy to see something new growing on our patio.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Harvesting shelling pea

What a busy day! After the garlic harvest, we turned to our shelling pea. We have harvested half of them (will finish them off in probably a week).

This is our plan: pick, shell, vacuum pack, freeze...(later)...defroze, cook, eat!

Why freeze them? We have snow pea and green salad to eat...food is abundant in a humble little backyard. We have to put some away for winter consumption.

I planted two varieties of shelling pea. On the left is Paladio,
on the right is Oregon Trail.
It seems that Paladio is sweeter than Oregon Trail. They grow in about the same speed. (see posting on April 12).