Our NRCS High Tunnel Program update

As part of our high tunnel program results report to the NRCS, I decided to create a post with LOTS of pictures from this gardening season.  We had a few setbacks early on this spring; health issues and a vehicle accident (no serious injury) caused a very late start on getting the high tunnels up and running.  We didn’t get things planted till very late May and into June.  But, we got ‘er done.  Because we had to move soil for the house high tunnel (hht), we ended up with very sandy, rocky soil to plant in.  That was a bit discouraging, but we followed the NRCS soil enhancement recommendations and hoped for the best.   We rented a rototiller to incorporate the lime and fertilizer into the beds.

Craig Smith, Alaska State Agronomist, knows his stuff.  Despite the late start in planting, the hht did pretty well.  We planted potatoes, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, summer squash, a variety of herbs, purple snap beans and we had red and golden raspberries already on the site.

Coming up is a photo tour of our house high tunnel garden for 2015.  Hope you enjoy it!

Early spring.  The frame was finished fall, 2014, but beds are not moved yet.

IMG_0427

Beds are redone in the right place.  From the left, potatoes are up (Magic Molly, Peanut, and All Blue).  The next bed (with the red frames) has Sun Gold tomatoes and one Stupice tomato plant.  Past the tomatoes are a couple of cucumber plants, a bed of Calendula flowers, purple snap beans, four hills of summer squash, and raspberries.  Next row (3rd from left) are herbs and sugar snap peas.  The far right bed has potatoes; German Butterball, Party, Red, Peanut, and Yukon Gold.

IMG_0858

Watering is a big issue with so much planted.  Curt set up a drip irrigation system that runs from the pumphouse.  We had two soaker hoses in each bed; will probably do three for each bed next year.  You can see Curt working on the pea trellis in this photo and also see the potatoes on the far right bed.  The green board you see running along the side of the hht is about 4-1/2 feet high.  We have monster potato plants!IMG_1091

Potatoes on the left side.  They’ve started sprawling from their weight and height, and they are blooming.  I think potato blossoms are beautiful.  (You cn see the side is rolled up about 2-1/2 feet for ventilation.  We had no problems with overheating or mildew this year.)   We also found that leaving some of the chickweed in the beds helped retain moisture.  (a living mulch?)  When I removed it, the dried out faster, so we started leaving it alone once the plants were big enough to not be choked out.  I also use some of the weeds in herbal infusions.

IMG_1156

IMG_0985

IMG_1089

Riley in the hht, potatoes on the left, Calendula on the right.  Beans just behind the Calendula.

riley in the high tunnel

Sun Gold tomatoes.  Best flavor ever!

IMG_0997IMG_0998

Some of our herbs.

IMG_1097IMG_1099

Couldn’t resist this shot.  Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (along with lavender, tarragon and basil) (You’re singing now aren’t you?)

IMG_1098

Dill!

IMG_0978

Leaf lettuce and basil.  These were scattered throughout the hht.

IMG_0971IMG_1155

Purple beans and raspberries.

IMG_0993IMG_0976

Moving along to harvest.  From the back, German Butterball, Party, Peanut, Red and Yukon Golds.

IMG_1783

Other side. Some of the Peanuts and All Blue. (I do see a Magic Molly in there, too.)

IMG_1782

How about these Red potatoes?

IMG_1778

Some of the purple beans.

IMG_1191

Using our loot!  Roasted chicken with homegrown herbs, potatoes, and snap bean in the glass dish.

IMG_1198

Tomatoes in various stages of ripening.  The smaller are Sun Golds, and the larger are Stupice.  Both yummy!

tomatoes 7.2015

New potatoes.  Peanuts and Magic Mollys

first potatoes 7.2015

Homegrown salad with buttercrunch and Forellenschluss lettuce, baby carrtos, and SunGold tomatoes.

garden salad 7.2015

The perfect meal.  Freshly caught and herb-grilled Red Salmon from the Talkeetna River, with yellow and purple potatoes.

salmon and potatoes july 2015

The hht with the end and side open for ventilation.  The horses mowing the grass.

IMG_1079

Advertisements

Lovely taters!

I wanted to share some of the beautiful potatoes we grew this year.  (I read The Martian and we saw the movie yesterday.  I’ll never think of potatoes again without thinking of Mark Watney!)

For breakfast this morning.  From the left, Yukon Gold and German Butterball, Peanut (in the middle), top right is Cherry Red, and lower right is Party.

taters not cut 2015

Here they are cut (with All Blue on the left and Magic Molly (purple, almost black).  Peanut at the top, Party have the pink streaks, German Butterball lower right, Yukon Gold lower left, All Blue left, and the purple-black in the center is Magic Molly.

beautiful taters cut 2015

Soon to be sauteed with sweet onions and eggs.  Deelicious!

beautiful taters 2015

Garden and High Tunnels (and rogue moose)

Our major project this year (and the end of last year) was building two 26 X 48 foot high tunnels.  It sounds easy; screw the frames together, set’um up and bolt the whole shebang together.  Hmmm.  Not quite that easy.  Our first big discovery was that Curt and I could not lift a single frame unit.   So, hired a couple guys and Curt and they worked madly last fall to get the frames up by the deadline.  This is the one in the back field, frame is complete!

IMG_6248

 

Here’s the high tunnel by the house, shortly early in the season.

IMG_0858

 

This spring we moved a lot of dirt and rocks while building new beds.  The beds in the high tunnel by the house T the old beds, just moved.  Unfortunately, in moving all that soil a lot of rocks were picked up and now in the beds.  So, we are always picking rocks; it never ends!

House high tunnel.  The pea trellis Curt is working on is 8 feet tall.  The potatoes to the right of the trellis are over 4 feet tall and still growing.  The board running along the side of the high tunnel is 4 feet high.  Sun Gold and Stupice Tomatoes are in the red cages on the left of pic.  My herbs are just past the post with the hoses at the front of the picture.

IMG_1089

 

Some of our early harvest.  Tomatoes, potatoes,  dinner with fresh Talkeetan River Red Salmon, our herb and potatoes.

tomatoes 7.2015first potatoes 7.2015      salmon and potatoes july 2015

Sun Gold Tomatoes, Calendula flowers, and a salad.

IMG_0998     calendula in high tunnel 8.6.15   garden salad 7.2015

The high tunnel in the the back is in the horse pasture.  The soil is very minimal; fine for grass but that’s about it.  We purchased garden soil from Susitna Organics in Wasilla.  Pricey, but high quality with added compost.  I wanted to be able to plant and have something not only grow, but thrive.  We’ve gone the route in the past of using “topsoil” that is mixed locally.  It looks great, but is sterile.  It has no soil structure, no  mycorrhizae, the pH is wrong and it needs fertilizer of some sort.  In short, time-consuming and needs a large infusion of money.  Our plants in the field tunnel are doing very well.  We are eating beautiful beets and beet greens, carrots and lettuce.  We have beautiful Toscano kale, De Cicco broccoli, Romanesco Broccoli and Calabrese broccoli, and Costata Romanesco squash coming.  All heirloom varieties.  If the weather continues to cooperate, we’ll be happy.

We also had a bed of Sugar Snap Peas outside the high tunnel.  Peas do so well outside here.  Sadly, a moose came one night and decimated those peas.  In the process, she also knocked down the pea trellis  which smashed into the raspberries.  Luckily, raspberries are hard to kill.  We do have peas in the high tunnel, so hoping they do well in there.   And lastly (for now), the horses enjoying the grass by the house high tunnel.

IMG_1079

Quilting a bag

Update to this post; I finished my bag!  And I love it!  Here are finished photos.

tote finished

Here’s the bag turned to the reverse side.

 

 

tote reverse, 2tote reverse

 

And a look at the side panels.

tote sideIMG_0180

 

I first tried free motion quilting many years ago, about 35 years I think.  I took a class at a local fabric store and remember recommendations to get a spring that replaced the press foot.  Unfortunately, I was never wildly successful with this setup.  I did do a couple very small projects that I can’t remember.  They were not very good, I’m sure!  I eventually became to frustrated with my less than stellar results and gave it up.

So, 35 years later and not one, but two awesome sewing machines that happily sew anything I ask, I am again tackling machine quilting.  I’ve taken several  online classes and finally, the planets and  karma seem to have aligned.  I am finding I enjoy the quilting process, quite a change from my experience years ago.  So, on to my current project.

I am working on a bag utilizing techniques in Leah Day’s Craftsy class Free Motion filler, Vol 2.  I love using my Janome 7700 for quilting because it has speed control.  It can sew a lot faster than I can and since I’m concentrating on perfecting my stitches, speed control really helps keep things manageable.

I don’t have a flat surface for sewing, a really useful feature when quilting.  I put some of my sewing books to good use to build up a larger, flat work surface.  Not perfect, but working pretty well for this small project.

IMG_0121

Here’s another view of my jerry rigged flat work surface.

 

IMG_0123

 

 

Here’s a shot of one side of the bag, pinned and ready to start stitching.

IMG_0118

 

Here is one of the sides in progress.

IMG_0125

Here’s a shot of the back of the bag in progress.

IMG_0130

 

And the completed quilting, both sides are beautiful.

 

FMQ tote side one FMQ tote back side one

 

Day three of the bag project and I started on the second side.

bag side 2, closeup

 

Below is progress from today.  Hoping to finish the bag by the end of the coming weekend.

bag side two

 

Free Motion Quilt Sampler project

Cold, gray, threatening to snow (or maybe rain the way this winter has been.)  What better way to spend the day (assuming you’re a sewing nerd) than to practice new techniques.  I recently have taken several Craftsy classes by Leah Day, a talented young woman who teaches classes online.  I was working on a free motion quilting sampler to practice techniques from Free Motion Fillers, Vol 1.  The quilting on this small project took about 4 hours, and I have another 2 or three hours of work to finish.

I used my Babylock Jane machine to piece and quilt this project.  Because this machine sews so fast, I duct taped a small screw driver to the foot pedal so I could not sew at full speed.  This worked great till my duct tape loosened and we were off again at breakneck speed.   I have to work on that, maybe a bigger piece of duct tape!

I’ll get right to the point and show you a pic of the quilted project.  It is not finished (need to bury the thread ends) but still looks great.

fm sampler done

Here’s a look at the back.

freemotion back 2

And the back finished.

fm back finished

And a look at different sections of the top.

freemotion blue

And a finished blue corner.

fm blue corner

freemotion closeup

fm another crner

Christmas Apron 2014

I recently visited my daughter and she was wanting a cute apron.  Bingo!  Mom can sew!  (IF ANY OF JOIE’S FRIENDS ARE READING THIS, DON’T TELL HER!  I don’t think she checks my blog!)  So, I made one for her for Christmas and it’s reversible to boot.  Hope she loves it.  I used a pattern from Sugar Pie Chic, the Simply Chic Apron pattern.  Very cute, and easy to make.  Also, the instructions are good.

My daughter loves mermaids and I had found a mermaid themed fabric last year with her in mind.  I figured I might as well make it reversible, since it doesn’t take much more work.   As you scroll through the pictures, keep in mind that I made a number of changes to this from the original instructions.

  • I made it reversible
  • I drafted a new pocket
  • The changes I made significantly changed the construction steps in the pattern directions.  Unless you’re an experienced seamstress, just follow the instructions.

Here is the bodice, one side has the mermaids, the other side is a coordinating water print.  It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the bodice is darted for better fit.  And of course, neck ties at the top.

 

IMG_6556

 

Here is the reverse side of the bodice.

IMG_6555

Here is the skirt.  The skirt is gathered, waistband is attached.

IMG_6558

 

Skirt ties pinned on and ready to stitch in place.

 

 

IMG_6562

 

Below, bodice and skirt has been stitched to waistband.  The waistband is pinned in place to be topstitched.

 

IMG_6561

 

 

Taa Daa!   Finished apron, the mermaid side.  I drafted the cute heart pocket.

 

joies apron

 

Here’s the reverse side.   The bodice looks darker in the pic, but is the same fabric as the skirt.

 

 

 

IMG_6565