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Posts Tagged ‘Port Orford OR Community Garden’

Today is a glorious day…warm and clear. In other places we might call it Indian summer but since the thermometer is topping 70°—an almost unheard of high around here even in August—I’ll just say we’re closing in on summer’s end. We head to the beach to soak up some sun. Folks are out in shorts and tees.  And the summer wind continues to barrel down the shore and US 101 from the north.

Laurie’s Red Onion Bounty © AME

But it’s clear the season is ending in the garden where the tomatoes have finally begun to ripen and the beans have passed from flower to pod. It’s obvious from the dying vines and drying onion tops that autumn has begun. The occasional cool breeze brings us up short, a harbinger of the months ahead.

Wax Beans Ready to Harvest © AME

Another sign: Early this morning was the peak of the harvest moon, the first full moon after the equinox. It’s outstanding because, unlike other times of year, the moon rises earlier after the sunset for a number of days in a row, making it appear as though the full moon lasts multiple nights instead of the standard one or two.

A final sign: Port Orford’s yards are littered with “vote for (fill in the blank)” banners, a sure sign that November is just around the corner. Here in Oregon ballots will begin to be mailed October 16. That’s also the final day to register. Please register if you haven’t and vote. It’s the only voice you’ve got. If you don’t know if you’re registered, need to register, or live in another state, check out this site for last chance dates:

www.longdistancevoter.org/voter_registration_deadlines#.UGji545AsUU

Just Do It! © AME

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Laurie’s Poppies © AME

In the past few weeks we have finally been able to get to our three community garden plots—two are last year’s, the third’s an orphan plot. At one end a few remnant potato plants grew; at the other a volunteer california poppy. I pulled the potatoes today and got about four pounds, a mix of russet and red. Some are small as peas (they’d probably bring premium prices at Whole Foods), the others are more normal potato-sized. While, our Community Garden isn’t “certified organic”, we’ve all agreed not to use any chemicals.

Even the Very Serious People at the New York Times have begun to take a closer look at what “certified organic” has come to mean in USDA parlance. Last week an article appeared in its Business Day: “Has Organic Been Oversized?” (www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/business/organic-food-purists-worry-about-big-companies-influence.html?pagewanted=all). I learned that over 250 synthesized substances are now allowed into what can still be labeled “organic”. And that production, as well as the USDA’s oversight board, seems top-heavy with agri-giants like General Mills and Campbell’s Soup. Some in the article scoff at “food purists” (note the URL) but I know I’d don’t want pay top dollar for “organic” food that includes ingredients like inositol, a chemical that’s as synthetic as it sounds but has met with USDA approval for use in “certified organic” products.

Peas Really Grow Well Here! © AME

So it’s good to look local. And especially so for us. Recently we’ve had the opportunity to visit some of our area’s small local family owned and operated farms. I’m impressed by how much (mostly young) farmers are producing outside the standard US mega-agribusiness model. Just like we experienced in the 1990s, only a few have chosen to become certified organic. Sure, they’re committed to no chemicals, no pesticides. But you know what? The certification process is just too darn complicated and expensive to fool with. Still, lucky for us, at our farmers markets, CSAs and local groceries we have the good fortune of being offered this good, healthy local food—chemical free produce, eggs, berries, chickens and beef.

And we’ve got our community garden plots too. We’ll be trying out those baby-potatoes tonight.

How Radishes Start © AME

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Saturday morning was a balmy clear blue sky day.

Port Orford Farmer's Market © AME

Summer Bounty © AME

In search of summer produce beyond our own tomatoes and zucchini (we harvested our first Friday) I hit Port Orford’s Farmer’s Market. It’s high season now and there was everything from mesclun mix to apples. Even tomatoes! My particular favorites: the variety of peppers and those wonderful green beans, harvested black, that turn green when they cook. Delicious. Want to know more? Visit: portorfordfarmersmarket.wordpress.com/

Beans © AME

Then I headed to Langlois’ Valley Flora, a wonderfully pastoral community supported agriculture (CSA) farm which also offers produce to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays and has U-Pick strawberries and raspberries.

It was the perfect day for a visit. Families wandered through the high bush raspberries reaching up for the fruit, then down on hands and knees to root for strawberries down long rows. There were all sorts of vegetables available too. I opted for carrots, beets and a huge head of romaine.

It’s true, there’s nothing like home grown. I know I’ll be back come Wednesday. For more info on Valley Flora visit: www.valleyflorafarm.com/

Valley Flora Farmstand © AME

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I’ve found people who grow vegetables plant their gardens for a variety of reasons. Some like to dig in the dirt; some like to know where their food comes from and what’s in it; some just love to see the brown earth of a spring plot yield to vegetables green and yellow and orange. Some are looking for a particular favorite, say pattypan squash or fava beans. Some are after exotic herbs.

But secretly, I think everyone would agree that most of all, we’re all yearning for a real tomato.

Still Life with First Tomatoes © AME

When I was a child I didn’t like tomatoes. Of course the only ones I knew came from the store in four-packs—cellophane-encased, single file in a little white plastic tray. Later in north Jersey there was a farm stand nearby (honest, people still grew veges in the “Garden State” back then) and the tomatoes my mom got there were higher up on the scale. She and my sister used to eat tomato sandwiches—thick tomato slices between Miracle Whipped™, Sunbeam™ soft white bread. Still, I demurred.

But on our own organic farm in Piedmont VA, I came to my senses. Of course we grew, hands down, the world’s best tasting tomatoes. And in multiple varieties: incomparable SunGold cherries; Sheriff paste tomatoes; chunky slicing Big Beef; heirloom Brandywine. Checking our farm records, I discovered we picked over 500 pounds of tomatoes in one week in July!

Vine Ripened © AME

Oregon Spring Tomato Cluster © AME

Here on the cool Oregon coast, expectations are lower, much lower. Instead of pounds we measure in units; instead of being overwhelmed with the sheer volume we’re down in the garden each day, urging those Oregon Spring individuals which have set to ripen. A triumph, we picked our first two (almost) red ones a few days ago. One molded overnight; the other was actually pretty good.  Another is now ripening on a west facing window sill. Our SunGolds have made a valiant, but futile, stand against the deer. The orange cherry tomatoes, alas, have grown only leaves. The last two days have been mid-50°s with fog (sigh). As I write the heat has come on in the living room.

Still, the weather radio speaks of sun and 80° for two days next week! Perfect tomato ripening weather.

Hope springs eternal in the hearts of all us tomato farmers here in Port Orford.

At the Farmer's Market © SR Euston

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Welcome to Port Orford's Community Garden © SR Euston

Saturday we checked out our plots in the Port Orford Community Garden. We rented two for ten bucks apiece: Each is about eight feet long by four feet wide. That gives us about 64 square feet of garden.

Spring in the Garden © SR Euston

They’re raised beds filled with great black loamy looking soil and the water is free. They are about three blocks from our house.

Sunday under a warm partly sunny sky we planted the first bed with six strawberry plants, radishes, spinach, turnips, kale and chard. We broadcast sowed the spinach seeds, the others went into neat tiny rows. We’ll see.

It brought back fond memories of our exuberant organic farming days in Piedmont VA. There we had two acres cultivated. That’s somewhat over 87,000 square feet! There we worked 100 foot rows of assorted vegetables, and literally hundreds and hundreds of tomato plants. We harvested everything from the earliest (Oregon) snow peas and mesclun mixes, to high summer eggplant and okra. One Saturday a DC visitor to our Lynchburg farmer’s market, bought all 15 pounds of our mustard greens. That was enough to fill two black garbage bags which she planned to place in the seat next to her on the return bus trip home. Our largest crop (1000s of pounds) was tomatoes, at least a dozen types including the all-time favorite tiny SunGolds. Horizons Farms starred in the Thomas Jefferson Tomatoe Faire one year, sweeping every category including Best of Show.

At the Farmer’s Market © SR Euston

We sold luscious Charantais cantaloupe, just the right size for two. And flowers—zinnias, sunflowers, mums. The goldfinches loved our fields. We closed out the season with sugar sweet pumpkins and acorn squash. The deer left our fields alone until the end when they began to sample the pumpkins, taking dainty bites out of one, then another. Not eating any one whole, merely rendering each fit only for compost. Actually that was OK by me. After a few hard days harvesting pumpkins I was exhausted and more than happy to share. Those years were hard and frightening; unexpected, unwanted, unplanned-for events (late frost, potato beetles, heavy rain, tomato hornworms) are always part the farming life. But oh the satisfaction of seeing our fields making food.

I imagine we’ll feel the same way with our two plots. And so much easier to manage.

Pumpkins and Acorn Squash © SR Euston

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