Who Made My …?


It all started a few months ago when I purchased two teacups at my local Skagit Valley Food Co-op. I liked them so much that the next time I was at the co-op, I asked one of the staff if they had a way to contact the Cheryl Harrison whose signature was on the bottom of the teacups.

“Yes, she works here,” they said. Wow! That surprised me. I found out which days and hours she worked, and I met her and asked if she made pottery on request. She did, and I took some pottery that I liked and gave her the sizes of the cups, plates, and bowls that I wanted.

I picked them up this week. It’s a delight having handmade dishes and knowing the person who made them. Each cut, plate, and bowl is slightly different. It’s refreshing setting the table and having pieces with personality.

It’s made me think how much we’ve lost with everything being mass produced, with everything being identical. A couple hundred years ago, you knew everyone who made your clothes, your dishes, your furniture. It was either yourself, or someone in your town. Today, most people have no personal connection with the people who made the things they use every day; their clothes, their shoes, their dishes, and the many other things they use.

One thing I’ve learned being at Bow Little Market this summer, is that if I look around, there are people nearby who make many of the things I use every day. It’s nice having a bowl of warm soup and knowing the person who crafted your bowl, and when I’m tossing a salad, knowing the person who made my salad fork and spoon. And they aren’t people who live in some far distant town, state, or country. They live nearby.




My intention was to turn this pumpkin into several dishes: pumpkin pie, roast pumpkin, pumpkin miso-ni, etc. It’s decorating the gateway instead. Maybe after halloween I can cut it up and eat it.

More pullets are laying now. For the first time in several months, there were more than a dozen eggs today. March and April are the peak of egg production for the flock here. By the end of June the count is noticeably lower, and it usually keeps going down until it picks up again after the New Year. This year, it is increasing early on account of new pullets wanting to lay eggs.

Supposedly hens need 14 hours of daylight in order to lay eggs. My experience is that this isn’t always the case. We are down to 11 hours of visible daylight now and will be down to 9 hours in late December. Even in the darkest days of winter, there are some hens laying eggs. Egg laying is very strong by early March when there are just 12 hours of visible light, so the 14 hour “rule” isn’t something my chickens know about. I won’t tell them. They don’t need another thing to worry about. “Oh, dear, there are just 10 hours of daylight and yet I’m laying eggs. Maybe there is something wrong with me? Should I go to the vet?” No, they don’t need to know that rule.


Each egg is so different. Rarely are there two eggs so similar they are hard to tell apart. Most eggs are distinct. Why do store eggs all look alike? Do they banish hens which have personality? What happens to those hens who lay eggs with a flare? I don’t want to think about it.


There is so much color this time of year. Mint never stops blooming once it starts. Maple leaves are turning a warm rust color. A row of freshly planted shallots and garlic turns into a quilt of many colors when I cover it with a thick layer of fall leaves.

I saw an article about a sweet potato farm in Japan started several hundred years ago. An integral part of the farm was a deciduous forest next to the fields. Over the centuries the farmers have continuously raked fallen leaves out of the forest and spread them over the fields. The result is that the soil in the fields is soft and many feet deep, letting oxygen filter deep into the ground and maintain a healthy biology for the sweet potatoes to grow.

In another row, a shallot planted several weeks ago is sprouting. Shallot sprouts are always fun to watch. Instead of a single stem poking up out of the ground like garlic, shallots send up whole hands of slender green fingers into the air.


Worth Waking Up


Any day that starts like this is a day worth waking up for. It’s late October and there are almost no clouds in the sky. A cool mist blankets the neighbor’s horse pasture, and as soon as the sun rises, it will float away (the mist not the pasture). Now you see it, now you don’t.

You often read about tourists flocking to see the fall colors in New England. Hordes of tourists from all over Asia sojourn to Japan to see the maples turn red and yellow. So how come there aren’t crowds thronging the vineyards in late fall to see the grape leaves turn? Grape leaves know how to party at the end of fall. They put on brilliant colors before they fall. Picnicking among the turning grape vines, bottles of wine in tow, that would be a lot of fun. Can’t you see vintners recommending certain wines over others when viewing red versus yellow grape vines?

Or should you drink the wine from that particular grape to truly appreciate the fall colors of that vine? Smell the wine, smell the leaves, can you detect the flavors of the wine in the leaf? You can’t? You need to drink more wine until you can.

Or you could have a taste test where you try and match the wine to the colorful leaves. Take a sip and guess which dried leaf made that wine.


It was a perfect day for splitting more wood. Most likely, this will end up in next year’s wood stack. There’s enough stacked for this winter. It’s time to start working on next winter’s stacks.

20151027 Stewartia

And what is this that is trying to bloom? A stewartia pseudocamellia. Nearly all the leaves are off the tree. Just a few dry, red leaves are left, and yet it’s trying to bloom? Maybe it’s roots have tapped into the grape vine’s roots and it is feeling tipsy. Oh please, oh please, just one more bloom. Plants can be like children. I don’t want to go to sleep yet. I don’t want to wait until spring.

What’s For Dinner?


What’s for dinner? It’s a timeless question. The answer is out in the garden until a killing frost lays waste to the greens still flourishing into mid autumn. Some of the white flower beans are blissfully unaware of frost’s impending doom. They continue blooming even though there is no hope of them becoming beans. Originating from the mountains of Central America, they are used to eternal spring. In milder climates, they are perennials. Perhaps if I mulch their roots enough, they will sprout next spring.


Soon to be on the dinner table, is this stunning rooster. Sadly for him, his coat of many colors can’t save him, not even his blue feather. He is too aggressive like his brother, who is currently in the freezer. He chases the hens too much. He fights the other roosters too much. “No” means nothing to a rooster.


Maybe, Maybe Not


There’s one last artemis melon left in the hoop house. Will it ripen? Maybe, maybe not, but I’ll let it stay on the vine as long as it wants. I found a berry flower in bloom today. It’s too late to be pollinated and turn into a sweet berry, but it’s as beautiful as berry flowers in spring.


Trees on Fire


The trees are on fire. When the sun is out, where is the heat coming from? The sun? Or the trees and their burning leaves?

Every day there are more white flower beans to pick. I never tire of popping open the bean pods and seeing the large white beans.


The horse chestnut leaves are yellowing. They look like dancers in the gentle breeze.

It’s a morning for olive-green-pink eggs and ham. Why settle for white eggs when eggs come in so many colors?


Is It Fall? Is It Spring?


The budding artichokes and morning sun make it look like spring. Artichokes are monumental plants. If you want your garden to make a bold statement, plant artichokes. How does something so magnificent sprout from such tiny seeds?


The wheelbarrows of leaves I’m gathering say it is fall. Tangerine and her chicks come out to investigate what I’m doing. We weren’t so sure she was going to make it as a mother. She was not one to stay home and bake cookies for her babies. If something caught her eye, she’d go after it, and not worry if her baby chicks could follow her or not. It was up to the chicks to find her if they wanted a mother. There were numerous times when we helped the peeping chicks find their mother. A peeping chick in search of it’s mother can peep so loud, its cry pops your eardrums. In the end, the chicks learned to cope with their eccentric mother. She shows them off with pride now. “See, tough love works,” she seems to crow. When the chicks are older and sharing their life stories with Hazel’s chicks, I can hear Hazel’s aghast chicks say, “Your mother did what!”


Egg of Forest


Which new hen is laying this pale blue egg? I’d been wondering about it for a while. Now I know. It is shy, elegant Forest. She looks like a hen who would lay a blue eggs.


Drama by the Road


Why do you ride a bicycle? I get that question a lot. There are the obvious reasons like exercise and environment. I bicycle for those and other reasons, like being able to stop on a dime when I see something interesting. I also get to help people. They often stop and ask for directions. It’s tempting to direct them to places where they aren’t planning on going. I don’t, but it’s tempting. It wouldn’t be cruel. Life is more exciting when you’re lost and have no idea where you are, and you’re wondering why that old man on that bicycle sent you this way. Maybe he was a sign.

But I also bicycle for the drama. A few days ago I came across a handful of pregnancy tests tossed on the side of the road. Who does that? Why would anyone toss used pregnancy tests out the window of a car?


Looking down at those pregnancy tests was like staring into a play by Shakespeare. I could see it, a frantic woman, distraught by the results of the test, flees her house, her husband in hot pursuit. Flying over the country road, she throws the pregnancy tests out the window when she sees her lover’s name pop up on her cell phone. Or a high school girl, needing to hide the results of the test, tosses them from the school bus on the way home. The possibilities are endless.

Pedal your way along country roads and you see the fragments people discard of their lives as they drive on by. It’s like coming across snippets of Shakespeare lying on the grass.


There’s drama in a compost pile too. It had cooled down, and before I carried it off to the garden, I checked it under the microscope. I found billions of bacteria, protozoa, amoebae, hyphal fungi, and nematodes. Lots of nematodes. Watching nematodes is high drama. They slither through the bacteria and fungi, looking for food while being hunted by large, carnivorous nematodes. Nematodes are so numerous, it is estimated that by number, they represent 80% of all animals on the earth. That’s dramatic. This is good, vibrant compost, full of living organisms which plants need to grow.


Few vegetables are as dramatic as cabbage. They are the drama queens of the garden with bold, green, sweeping leaves. If you want dramatic plants that make a statement, grow cabbage.


Bamboo Harvest


It’s the great bamboo harvest of 2015. A massive pile of bamboo. If it weren’t for bamboo, civilization may never have started. Such a versatile plant. It doesn’t take a lot of bamboo to make a cozy, dry house. You can make bridges out of it, fishing poles, water pipes, spears, clothes, bowls, cups, baskets, all the things you need to be civilized.


The chickens come to investigate what I am doing with all this bamboo. Tangerine brings her chicks to show them how civilization started. You never know. Ingrained in DNA, passed down through the eons, may be terrifying memories of those first chicken cages made from bamboo. Chicken learning may be a matter of firing memories stored in DNA. One walk past a human taking apart bamboo, and the terrifying memories of being trapped inside bamboo cages come alive and the chickens walk a little bit faster. Don’t get too close to a human with bamboo their DNA tells them. Never fear, little ones. You live in the land of chicken freedom. There’ll be no bamboo cages for you today.


The bamboo harvest over, it’s on to the smallest cabbage harvest in the world, plucking one cabbage for lunch and a few meals. In cool weather, cabbage is one of those fantastic plants that stays fresh as long as you leave it growing. It would be stupid to harvest all the cabbages at once. They’d never keep. I’d have to turn them into sauerkraut, can them, pickle them, etc, or see them turn into compost. Leave them out in the garden, and I can have fresh cabbage next week, the week after, the week after that, and on and on. It’s cool when the soil does a better job keeping produce fresh than a refrigerator. Try keeping a head of cabbage fresh for four weeks in your fridge. It’s not going to happen. Leave it growing in the ground, and it’s a piece of cake.