Monday, December 22, 2008


The shop is closed today and for the holidays on Thursday and Friday. I'll keep you posted here on whether we'll be open Tuesday - YES or Wednesday. The snow continues to fall heavily here. At home we've been helping neighbors shovel out and get chains on their tires. A number of people cross-country skiing down the street. We pulled a little antique sled to our friends for solstice dinner last night. The snow is 8" plus in the chicken run and they have ventured out a few times and Banti flies the straight stretches over the snow, which looks pretty wild...

Thinking about warm ocean currents... Sooner than we realize, with the daylight lengthening, we'll all be starting seeds again. In the meantime, reports say this is the biggest December snowstorm in 40 years, currently at 11-13" downtown. The snowiest month on record looks like January of 1890 at 35.3" !

* From the Oregonian "Chilly chickens may need heater" - with tips from Lisa Ewing at the Avian Medical Center *

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Freezing, FEDCO, Seed issues & Monsanto, Good Films! and delicious CSAs

We did some extra windproofing for the chicken coop with the temperatures below freezing and staying this way for at least a week. Plastic for interior sections and using more sign board, to try to let sun in and keep wind out. There is still plenty of ventilation and we have a little bedtime heater for them. It may be more than they need, but they were much happier about coming down for hot mash and warm water by Tuesday morning. We don't have a heater for their water and luckily one of us has been home to change it a couple of times a day and bring it in evenings. If you do need a heater - try pet stores. Both Linnton Feed & Seed and Wichita Feed & Hardware are out, but do have STRAW ! Darcy at Linnton said that a customer at Dal Tile on NW 29th & Yeon, recommends a tile heater for larger troughs for about $50, if you can't find heaters elsewhere. Megan at Pistils, (beautiful new website!), reminds to be very careful about not setting your coop on fire with lights or heaters. Some customers are using a lower wattage red reptile bulb. If you are using a white bulb for heat and or laying, keep it on a timer, so it is not stressful for your hens. Imagine a white light staying on all night in your bedroom all winter.. maybe not so fun... A low of 18 is predicted for Friday in Portland, with more snow coming, so make sure everybody stays warm and secure! One friend's chicken tractor roof blew off Sunday night, they caught it quickly and their hens are safe. The intensity of wind is hard to realize sometimes when working on coops in calm weather and this weekend it felt like it was coming from every direction. Do you have ideas to share?

My friend Katie, of Oakhill Organics, keeps a very honest, well written blog for their CSA and others interested in all matters farming and food. Her most recent post, A cold end to the season, is about the challenges this storm has brought to their farm and other local farmers who are growing crops year-round. It's worth reading from 2006 on up through 2008. (with her husband Casey in a warmer time)

This weekend while the wind was howling, I made time to nestle up with this year's FEDCO Seed Catalog. Love. It is the most morally spunky and plant romantic ever and can be read cover to cover. C.R. Lawn is one of my heroes. We're one degree lower in latitude than they are in Maine and share similar length of daylight, with (generally, ahem..) milder temperatures, so many of the short season recommendations apply. They have a number of codes for their seed to detail organic certifying agencies, size of farm, an ECO label for sustainable non-certified growers and they also list how they spent their budget on seeds. Of the $318,300 they spent buying seed in 2007-8, "$74,100, or 23.3% (up from about 10% ten years ago), went to 51 small farmer / seed growers from 18 states. Oregon had the highest total, followed by Maine, Idaho and Maryland." Pretty neat transparency. They have small packet sizes for home gardeners so you can affordably expand the diversity of your seed herd. I did make myself go through my current seed stock, to try to come to terms with what I already have and what, realistically..., I will have room to grow. My stomach's eyes and my heart's love of flowers are too big!

FEDCO carries a number of seeds from local plant breeder, Frank Morton, which you can also purchase from Wild Garden Seed directly. Their 2009 catalogue is not out yet, but you can get a good idea from last year. Also carried by Nichols, Seeds of Change, Johnny's and other seed companies who often reference him by name. Here's an article on Monsanto's acquistion of Seminis, which in 2005, was the world's largest vegetable seed company. Matthew Dillon of The Organic Seed Alliance, interviewed Frank Morton, C.R. Lawn and Ron Johnston of Johnny's for this article - see "Conjecture and Concern."

And speaking of Frank, see the Genetic Engineering information from the FEDCO catalogue or full article online. As you read on down, the third part "What's Gonna Be in that Hershey's Kiss?" is extremely important to the Willamette Valley. Here is the opening:

“Seed Dreamland” may be turning into a nightmare unless a lawsuit by the Center for Food Safety, the Organic Seed Alliance, the Sierra Club and High Mowing Organic Seeds is successful.

Seed Dreamland is what breeder Frank Morton has called the Willamette Valley in Oregon, whose hospitable climate has made it a center for growing seed crops of brassica, onions, spinach, endive, flowers, beets and chard. The valley is also the home of all sugar beet seed production in the United States. Beet sugar accounts for half of U.S. sugar production. If you indulge in Mars or Hershey bars you are consuming beet sugar. Now the incursion of genetically modified sugar beets threatens the conventional and organic beet and chard seed industry. Sugar beets are the same species as table beets and chard and will cross." (continues)

Okay, so maybe you don't eat from those candy companies and say hershey smershey. It is the cross-pollination and genetic seed contamination that is the dangerous issue. Here is a letter on the Organic Seed Alliance site that Frank wrote in response to the industry's opinion on Roundup Ready sugar beets. Read it! Here is an article on this issue I just found from a recent Oregonian, Oregon's organic farmers fight genetically modified seeds. Both also discuss Roundup Ready alfalfa - which we do not want!! It was unconditionally deregulated / allowed in June, 2005 by APHIS, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. There is currently a nationwide injunction prohibiting it's use pending the completion of an EIS, environmental impact study and then a new decision on deregulation. You can read the court's decision fully here: Geertson Seed Farms v. Monsanto. See in particular p. 12025 and p. 12026 middle paragraphs. The court finds that failure to stop it's use before it is fully studied could, "potentially eliminate the availability of non-genetically engineered alfalfa." Wow. Hopefully the lawsuit against RR sugar beets follow a similar path, in that the court does not seem to want to wipe out all other alfalfa seed.

Alfalfa is widely used for both feed and fertilizer and we must preserve organic and conventional seed from being wiped out by genetically engineered and PATENTED seed. Seed which, once it contaminates growers who are not using it, can then be sued by the very company whose seed has contaminated yours. Sounds insane, but it has been and is going on right now. Check out this report, Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers, by the Center for Food Safety, one of the plaintiffs in the above case. At the time of this report in 2005, $15,253,602.82 had been rewarded to Monsanto in lawsuits against farmers.

Farmers growing their own crops, with their own seed, contaminated by and then searched by, Monsanto, who then sues them.

I watched Flow: For the Love of Water this weekend and highly recommend it. The two genetic engineering / modification powerhouses films to also see are: The Future of Food and then The World According to Monsanto, both are chilling and inspire me to strengthen my choices of organic for food and seed, whether certified or not. And work to become more informed and active in preserving our seeds and farmers.

Here is a simple action to take, sign Article 31:

Everyone has the right to clean and accessible water, adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family, and no one shall be deprived of such access or quality of water due to individual economic circumstance.
Also speaking of water, the In Good Tilth issue March / April 2008, Volume 19, is great if you've got it stashed away or can get your paws on a copy. There is a review on Vandana Shiva's Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit. Another book I'd like to read this winter is her new book, Soil Not Oil. She is interviewed in two of the documentaries above and is speaking at the Organicology conference here in Portland on February 28th!

The Organic Gardening Certification Program course will be offered again in the fall of 2009! You can call 503-360-4185 or email to get on their contact list.

Zenger Farm still has classes this winter! Backyard Botany and Beyond has 3 classes left Saturdays 10 to 11:30am, taught by Ryan Hofrichter. January 10th - Vegetable Cultivation, 17th - Hot & Worm Composting, and 24th - Seed Saving, see link for full descriptions. Register ahead: or 786-972-1333. (photo of Zenger on right)

Okay... my simple update on the weather and good films.. has become a bit more. Thank you for reading this far. Maybe you are thinking now, what can I do? Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering, NW RAGE, has an action you can take on Sugar Beets, lots of resources and film screenings.

Growing your own food, preserving and supporting sustainable seed, thoughtful water use, buying from farmers at markets and joining a farm CSA are powerful actions.

Now is a really good time to sign up for a CSA before they're all full. * Check out the listings on the Portland Area CSA Coalition *

Sauvie Island Organics has been farming 15 miles from the heart of Portland for over a decade. They are expanding this year on more acreage and have space for new members in 2009. They usually have a waiting list, so sign up now if you're interested! They have a new pick-up site this year in SW and other convenient spots around town to pick-up your share. The bounty spans 30 weeks of yummy produce, from May through December. Check out their website and blog to see lots of photos, recipes and writings from the farmers. Farm manager, Tanya Murray, just wrote really neat piece on End of the Season Reflections. You can also contact Francesca Benedetti, the CSA Assistant at (503) 621-6921 or This is a great opportunity to become a part of this deliciously dedicated urban farm.

If you have a local CSA with openings this year, I am happy to post it here, just let me know.

Happy Solstice! By Sunday the days will begin unfurling again : )

bawc bawc!
Naomi Montacre

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Edible Portland's winter issue is in!

There is an article on gleaning, "Picked Clean," by Angela Sanders in this winter issue. I am definitely a gleaner, picker, salvager and I think a lot of you are, too... so many goodies out there to be treasured. A very charming documentary to watch is The Gleaners and I, by Agnes Varda and the Part 2 follow-up also on the dvd and you can think of yourself as a glaneuse...mmm. This review in the NY Times is a perfect description.

The Portland Fruit Tree Project just had a really nice fundraiser with a silent auction, cider pressing, yummy food, milking goats to nuzzle. And now is a great time to register any fruit trees for future pruning & gleaning and learn how to be involved. You can also donate to them in Willamette Week's Give! Guide 2008. The guide is a source on many of the non-profits in town that benefit from your support. Another great group to donate to and volunteer with is Growing Gardens! There is another related article online from Edible Portland in 2007, "Finder's Keepers," which also features Urban Edibles, the cooperative network of wild food foragers...

"Bean Man," by Ellen Jackson, starts by saying, "Today, 95 percent of what's grown in the Willamette Valley is non-edible." Wow. There's another article on Oregon's top 8 ag commodities. The one on Harry MacCormack's Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project also brings to mind two projects here in the north. Josh Volk of Slow Hand Farm and Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm, (check out "Beans in Depth"!)," have a forum on Small Scale Grain and Pulse Production. The other is Sunroot Garden's urban Staple Crops Project. This is such an important part of our sustainable food future and one that's even harder to figure out in the urban landscape.

A new face around here is Mary, our new part time shop assistant, who will be helping out with projects this winter and helping in the spring when all of you get busy on the farm and in the garden again. We may be looking for a new part time warehouse worker in February, because Kyle may farm full time this year. It's hard for me to try to convince him not to.

It's been so dry, but the rain and maybe snow this weekend in the valley, are coming and it's a good time of year to research ways to manage it. The City of Portland has all kinds of neat information on managing stormwater. Many great pdfs on Stormwater Solutions.
  • Metro has a great site on Rain Gardens, including a link to East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District. They are really helpful resource on rain gardens, natives and other non-invasives. Free workshops and great brochure information - I have some now and will have more of their's and Metro's on hand here again soon.

The Organic Gardening Certification Program just wrapped up this weekend. I learned many things and met a lot of neat people. And I was inspired to plant my garlic and cover crops earlier this year. I put 200 cloves on a ridge to the left of this photo in mid October after we planted out at Luscher Farm and cover crops everywhere I could clear or fit them in. Then a few weeks later, still in deep garlic fever, I planted another hundred along the chicken run and cover crops down below the path where black turtle beans had been. OSU and Oregon Tilth did an excellent job with this first course. They are working on how to connect it with the Master Gardener program and looking through feedback to figure out what the best structure will be for the course in the future. Hopefully it will be offered again in the fall of 2009. There were a lot of hands on learning experiences, a diverse group of instructors and 60 really interesting people taking the course. They've set up a way to complete the Master Gardener portion, too, which I'm taking this spring in NE Portland.

I made samples of our products to share during the amendments and fertilizer section and wrote down some of my thoughts on organic gardening, with my top 11 favorite amendments and fertilizer. Just ask if you'd like a copy. The photo is from the workshop I did in October. We've got half of the center wall down and will be starting the roof repair soon. So it will still be a bit with the renovation work, but there will be more fun workshops in our spiffed up space : )

Mark your calendars for
Organicology, February 26 - 28, 2009 at the Lloyd Center here in Portland!

I will be catching up on some time off this month before busy season, so if you have any questions for me, you're welcome to email if you don't catch me at the shop. This weekend I will be enjoying seed catalogs and plotting out my current and future dream gardens and going for a wintery hike...

Happy full moon!

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm MOLTING .......!

Bbbbuuuuurrrrrrr!!! I know I'm the closest living relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex and they were tough, very tough... and maybe I'm really meant to go through this intense "out with the old feathers and in with the new" right now...

I'm thinking I've evolved to be sweet and delicate, not so tough... It's been chilly, but not rainy, which I am thankful for.

I just don't get out of the roost as early as I might. Its like I'm missing my jammies and then all day I'm well.. not quite dressed to be in public either. So, we have all been sleeping in and snuggling longer. I know Naomi would love to see us in the smidgen of daylight before she rides off to work, but I am too cold with this feather business. Maybe I could get her to play some T. Rex in the mornings with a wee cuppa tea...

Dreaming of feathers for all my ladies,
P.J. (Harvey)