They say you should never meet your heroes. You get older and jaded and assume that you were young and easily impressed. You’re older now and have life all figured out. Then you get the chance, and you assume you’re going to be disappointed. They couldn’t be that cool; but you realize you were dead wrong. Your hero is somehow even better than you imagined. So talented, just like you remember, but also smart, funny, and kind.
You hero is somehow even better than you imagined.
As a bit of background, most of you know that Al was, long ago, a musician in a Cincinnati band called Clabbergirl. One of his bands’ musical idols – or, as he would tell it, one of the most famous, influential and well respected musicians of the last 30 years – was Rob Fetters, the guitarist/vocalist for a variety of bands including The Raisins, The Bears, psychodots, and of course, his solo work. Clabbergirl was such a huge fan of Rob and his bands that they organized a tribute concert for them in the late 1990’s, with nearly every other local band of note showing up to also pay tribute. Rob has made consistently excellent music and influenced generations of musicians.
Rob still makes clever, catchy, hook driven pop/rock music. He no longer does club tours or plays big venues. Instead, he plays intimate, live shows, interspaced with stories from his career and the business, in private homes for small groups.
We were lucky enough to have Rob stop by on his way from Cincinnati to Vancouver, BC. We shared a wonderful evening with him performing in our cozy barn for a small group of friends and family, with our animals looking on.
He still has the magic.
The Seattle area usually gets a few days of snow each year, especially at slightly higher elevations. This year, we have had 2 weeks in a row of particularly heavy snows, with the added benefit of reasonably comfortable temperatures and even some blue sky. Until yesterday.
The only real hassle is keeping fresh water supplied to all of the animals, as it quickly freezes. We moved one of the large horse troughs close to the barn and bought an immersion heater, so the horses and goats seem happy. We just need to keep bringing warm water out for the hens and kitties.
We’re now sitting at 26″ of snow.
Here’s the final plan for the edible garden this year. Tomatoes, melons, & cucumbers will be string trellised. Most of the warm-season crops will mulched with black plastic, and grown under clear plastic hoop houses until mid-July.
Welcome Cruiser and Bailey!
These regal old horse-friends join us from our old neighbors at Sammamish Animal Sanctuary. Cruiser is well over 30, and Bailey in her late 20s, and super sweet tempered. They’ll have a little visit with us at Half Full Farm while their pasture recovers.
Last year was our second full year at Half Full Farm with a dedicated edible garden space. We have a total of twelve 4’ x 8’ rasied beds behind high fencing, along with our beehives – which, so far, has managed to keep the bears out of them. If you saw last year’s post, you’ll see we had a fairly aggressive list of edibles, inlcuding multiple varieties of our favorites like melons, tomatoes and peppers.
In considering what went well:
- We had successful harvest of melons, which was a real surprise, given how dfficult they are to grow in our area
- We had a good tomato and eggplant harvest – but a lousy pepper harvest
- We harvested potatoes a plenty
- Beans and peas did well
- We are still eating down our carrots, here in January
- We still have stockpiles of garlic
- We had a good supply of herbs in the last half of the season and into the fall
- Our new drip irrigation system was a vast improvement compared to the overhead waterer we used in the prior year
On the other hand, we had some problems:
- I couldn’t grow a decent brassica to save my life. I harvested a few pounds of Brussels Sprouts, but had no success with cabbage or broccoli, spring or fall
- We had a decent supply of lettuce, but didn’t do a great job of succession planning so had lots of gaps through the year
- I had some late season beets, but struggled with them
- I had an unreasonably hard time growing radish. If you even accidentally say the word “radish” near dirt, they grow, so I clearly am an idiot
- I don’t think I dialed in the organic fertilizer until late in the season
This Year’s Garden
This year, we have 2 major changes to the garden:
- We have six new 4’ x ‘8 raised beds in another part of our property, thanks to our exceedingly sweet neighbors. These beds will not be behind fencing, so we have decided to try a flower cutting garden.
- We plan to utilize the same twelve edible beds – in line with our rotation strategy – but this time simplify the number and variety of crops we plan to grow. Our guiding principle is to grow things that we really love, and know will be more delicious than what we can get at the local supermarket.
With that, here are our lists for the coming season, ordered as always from Territorial Seed Company.
- Arugula ‘Speedy’
- Beans, Bush ‘Hickock’
- Beets ‘Touchstone Gold’
- Carrots ‘Sugarsnax’
- Cucumbers ‘Marketmore 97’
- Eggplant ‘Prosperosa’
- Leeks ‘Megaton’
- Lettuce ‘Rex’
- Lettuce ‘Oaky Red’
- Melons ‘Alvaro’
- Onions ‘Walla Walla’
- Peas, Snap ‘Super Sugar Snap’
- Peppers, Hot ‘Ancho Magnifico’
- Peppers, Sweet ‘Purple Beauty’
- Potatoes ‘White Elba’
- Pumpkins ‘Naked Bear’
- Pumpkins ‘Bellatrix’
- Radishes ‘Cherry Belle’
- Shallot ‘Conservor’
- Spinach ‘Palco’
- Squash ‘Hunter’
- Tomatoes ‘Genuwine’
- Tomatoes ‘Marzinara’
- Watermelon ’Sweet Beauty’
- Basil ‘Emerald Towers’
- Basil ‘Finissimo Verde A Palla’
- Chives ‘Organic’
- Cilantro ‘Cruiser’
- Dill ‘Long Island Mammoth’
- Mint ‘Mojito’
- Oregano ‘Zataar’
- Parsley ‘Dark Green Italian’
- Benarys Giant Series Mix Zinnia
- Bonanza Mix Marigold
- Infrared Mix Sunflower
- Persian Jewels Nigella
- Potomac Early Orange Snapdragon
- Sensation Mix Cosmos
- Tall Trailing Mix Nasturtium
- The Joker Sunflower
When we purchased Half Full Farm, we had something of a blank slate with regard to furniture. We had sold both our houses, and had significantly downsized most of our belongings as we moved into a rental house together. We started looking for unique or interesting antique furniture to reflect the rustic and homey atmosphere that we appreciated. Traci found one heck of a bargain on Craigslist – an authentic, turn-of-the century Hoosier Cabinet in very good condition. For those not familiar, most houses built in those days did not have built-in cabinets or storage, and so special purpose furniture was used. One very popular kind was the so-called Hoosiers, which served as an all-purpose kitchen unit that allowed families to store ingredents and prepare food, often baked goods.
It was perfect: we wanted a unique piece for our main entry, and we wanted something that would be decorative. I don’t think I fully realized, however, how great it would be to support Traci’s practice of crafting beautiful, fun and rotating “decor themes.”
A quick word about this: I’m a Halloween man, myself – I’ll happily fill our home, yard & barn with skeletons, spiders, fog machines and bloody footprints, even if we never see a trick-or-treater out in the sticks. I also like a good Christmas tree and festive holiday lights. But Traci – she takes it to a whole new level. Traci does an amazing job of keeping the house beautiful and seasonally appropriate.
Take a look at some of these themes:
We harvested our hardneck garlic over the weekend. This was my first time growing garlic and I found it easy and rewarding.
I ordered our bulbs from Territorial Seed Company and put them in the ground soon after they arrived in early October, after adding several loads of compost. We used our “backup” garden beds, as the main garden area was already planted in cover crop, due to lack of sufficient planning.
Planting is straightforward: simply break individual cloves from the full bulb head. Discard the teeny tiny ones since they won’t grow as robust plants as the larger ones will. Make sure to leave the papery husk on the cloves. Plant each clove about two to three inches deep with pointy tip up, about six inches apart from each other. I usually incorporate a complete organic fertilizer into the soil just before planting.
Once established, you should see stalks emerge and growth through the mild winters here in the Greater Seattle area. Things really take off in the spring, and you will see your hardneck garlic put up a seed stalk at the same time bulb formation begins. You should pinch off the emerging seed head as soon as you see this form; this will ultimately yield bigger bulbs.
Keep an eye on the garlic starting in early June. The leaves should start turning brown, a sign that the heads have segmented and formed bulbs with an exterior skin. If you can, stop irrigating and allow the soil to dry out and check the bulbs every few days to ensure they are ready. Do not try and yank the pants from the ground as that can damage your bulbs, instead use a spade or pitchfork to loosen the soil around and underneath and gently loosen the roots.
The next step is to dry the bulbs: I lay mine out for a few hours in the sun, gently shake of a bit more of the soil off, then move them to a a covered area that is protected from the rain (we use our barn) for another 3-4 days. After drying a bit, strip away some of the exterior leaves and the outer layer of paper skin to make clean-looking bulbs. Allow the bulbs to cure for another 2 weeks or until the tops have withered enough to braid or cut off. Store in a cool dry place and enjoy your harvest.
There is a wonderful organization in our area – the Puget Sound Goat Rescue. In addition to rescuing goats from local slaughterhouses and taking in dozens of dairy & breeder cull babies every year, Puget Sound Goat Rescue takes in goats whose owners are no longer able to care for them, as well as goats found wandering as strays. They are led by the inspiring and wonderful Barbara, and 100% of donations go directly to animal care.
In their own words:
Puget Sound Goat Rescue is a 100% volunteer run, 501 (c)(3) registered charity. Each year, we rescue goats from a variety of situations where they are unwanted, mistreated, neglected or abused. The goats are cared for at the rescue until they are ready to be adopted to permanent, loving homes. Since its inception in 2001 we have rescued over 1,900 goats, averaging 200 per year in the last few years.
Our three grown goat boys – Statler, Waldorf & Beauregard – were adopted from PSGR in 2016, and we continue to volunteer and donate. Last year we fostered two baby Nubians (Beeker & Bunsen) for several months until they were adopted by their forever family, and so we were anxious to adopt more this season.
Traci made a rescue run last month for FIVE delightful little day-old Saanens, but they were too little come home with us.
But just in time for Easter, we drove down to PSGR and picked up Patrick and Hermie, 5-week old Nubians. They are still young enough to require bottle feedings 2-3 times per day, and they are lethally cute.
Goats make wonderful additions to your farm and family. If you are in the Greater Seattle area and are interested, please feel free to contact us or Puget Sound Goat Rescue directly for more information. If you don’t have the facilities or time to adopt or foster, then there are lots of other ways to support and get involved.
This is our second year making cheese, and we seem to be making it more often, at least once per week. Since the first of the year, we have made a sage-infused cheddar, a gouda, a gruyere, an imperial porter cheddar, and a traditional Colby. Our investment in equipment has been pretty minimal – a few cheese molds and a giant pot we got on clearance. But after a few pressing related mishaps, we have decided enough was enough and strung for a fancy cheese press from cheesemaking.com. We shopped around on Craigslist and eBay, and there were a few knock-off versions, but the quality of this one and it’s inclusion of a super-nice stainless-steel cheese press and follower pushed us over the edge.
In addition to preventing disaster (my olympic weights would often come crashing down mid-press!), I also feel like this system is a lot cleaner: no more germs falling like snowflakes onto my beautiful cheese-babies. I also love that this system comes with a draining tray that I can position over the sink.
It’s pricey, but I figure the convenience factor is worth it. Now I just have to make more cheese…