Sunday, February 26, 2012

A New Place to Roost

Dear Coeur d'Alene Coop Peeps,

This will be my last blog entry of The Coeur d'Alene Coop on Blogger.  

We have a new and permanent roosting spot on WordPress at  

I have appreciated your following and commenting over these last 3+ years, and hope that you will visit the new site and sign up to receive automatic email updates.

I look forward to continuing the chicken chatter and gardening gossip with you!


The Coeur d'Alene Coop is moving!  Follow us at

Monday, September 26, 2011

Crowd Sourcing to Get the Job Done

The following bit of photojournalism captures the daily activity inside the Coeur d'Alene Coop.  Madge is quite the attraction to the younger girls when she in on the nest.  I wish I could have recorded the "chicken purring" that occurred during this session!  

Who knew chicken's crowd-sourced this daily hen-house activity?

Hmm, maybe I could use a little input...

Yes, I agree...we need a few more like minds in here...

Everyone, please, come in and have a seat...

Standing room only!

The finished product...job well done one and all!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saving Seeds: A Smart Investment for Your Garden's Future

The summer garden is winding its way down and fall planting at the 2nd Street Chicken Ranch is well underway.  The long raised bed, that just a few weeks ago was an overgrown tangle of bush beans, has been realigned and is reemerging in tidy rows of spinach, kale and cress.  The determinate tomato plants have had their final fruits harvested and have been pulled to make room for the garlic.  

While all this reorganizing is taking place, it's also time to start investing in next year's garden by saving seeds from this year's best plants.  I'm pretty selective about which seeds I save and my friends at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds have nothing to worry about -- I'll still be purchasing plenty of seeds from them once that fabulous catalog arrives.

Saving is Easy

It's pretty easy to save seeds but here are a few thing to note as you get started:

  • If the plant variety is a hybrid, the seed you save may be sterile or will not produce a plant like the parent variety. It's best not to save seeds from a hybrid. Heirloom seeds reproduce well and will keep the variety going...that's how we got heirlooms!
  • The best seeds for a home gardener's to save are from those plants that self-pollinate (or are not cross-pollinated). These include garden favorites like tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans and peas. 
  • Choose the best fruit, vegetable or flower.  Fruit should be at the peak of ripeness, but not over ripe.  Beans and peas should be left on the plant to dry.
  • Make sure your seeds are dry -- moldy seeds rot!  Store in an envelope and don't forget to label it with the name/variety of plant. 

Mother Nature is pretty amazing when left to her own devices and you have no doubt encountered a "volunteer" of some type in your garden. This is especially true if you compost or let plants go to seed.  Case-in-point, the free seeding echinacea (cone flower).  I leave the seed heads for the birds but plenty self seed every year.  I have a beautiful garden full of purple and white cone flowers year after year. The same is true with cilantro; inevitably it bolts, flowers and self seeds.  I get a new crop without lifting a finger.

While saving beans, peas and dried seed heads is super easy, tomatoes take a little more effort and is something along the lines of a science experiment, but it's still easy.

Saving Tomato Seeds  

Here's what you'll need:

  • The best tomatoes on the plant at the peak of ripeness.
  • A glass jar or dish for collecting the seeds (one dish for each variety you are saving).
  • A find sieve for straining the seeds.
  • A paper plate for drying the seeds.
Here's how:

1. Scoop out the seeds and gelatinous tomato goo from your prize specimen into the glass jar or dish.
2. Add about 2 inches to 3 inches of water.
3. Move dish to a warm place (I recommend the garage where where fruit flies can really live it up) and let it sit until mold starts growing on the surface in about 2 - 3 days.  Yes mold. I said this was like a science experiment, didn't I? The mold is breaking down that gelatinous goo and freeing up the seeds!
4. Time to rinse the seeds.  Scrape or pour off the mold and dump your seeds into a fine sieve.  Rinse with water, moving the seeds around with your finger to make sure all the goo is washed off.
5. I like to pat the seeds dry with a paper towel and then transfer them to a paper plate to dry.
6. Let them dry thoroughly for a day or two.  Move them around to make sure none are stuck together. 
7. Label and save in an envelope. 

I store all my seeds in an airtight container, out of direct light in the unheated garage. 

Last year I was unable to find seeds of my two favorite tomato plants, the Sun Gold Cherry and the Juliet, so I purchased plants from my favorite supplier at the farmer's market.  I've saved the seeds of both of these varieties to ensure that I have seeds to start next spring!

What has been your success rate with saved seeds?  Anyone interested in a seed exchange?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The CdA Coop's Top Garden Picks of 2011

It's hard to believe that today is the last day of summer; after all, it didn't really arrive in north Idaho until early August!  In spite of the cold, wet spring which extended in to cool, wet summer, we did manage to have a couple of standouts in the garden this year.

Here's the lineup, starting with the cool weather lovers, since this was their year again. 

Lettuce and Greens:
We had (and continue to have) a fabulous crop of lettuces and greens this year. 
The Lolla Rossa lettuce was beautiful, never bolted or became bitter.  It is a lovely red leaf lettuce and will be back in the garden in 2012.  And then there was the arugula -- we enjoyed this spicy green all summer.  I planted this is succession (and now into the fall). If you haven't planted this before, I highly recommend it.  It germinates quickly and is ready for harvest in 25-30 days.  It's great in salads and lovely braised with a little garlic and bacon (like spinach but with a zing!). 

I heard from several gardeners that this was indeed the year of the bean. I went a little crazy this year and planted all my beans at once instead of staggering the plantings.  That led to beans at just about every meal for several weeks. We put in four types of bush beans; green, yellow wax, royalty purple and Dragon's Tongue.  All were productive, but my favorite and the standout was the Dragon's Tongue. This is a flat type bean that starts out green with purple stripes and matures yellow with stunning deep purple stripes and spots. Oh, and did I mention how good they taste?  We blanched, steamed, sauteed and roasted. Gotta love summer's bounty.

This was another difficult year for Idaho tomatoes...but we did manage to pull out a few winners.  This year I started more than 50 tomato plants and much to my surprise, they all grew to transplantable size.  Many were given to friends and, I'm happy to say, those plants have been very productive. 

The all around winner for yet another year is the Sun Gold Cherry.  Nothing beats this little, round orb of sunshine.  The sweet flavor explodes "summer" in your mouth and it just keeps on producing.  Plant this one.

Another huge producer this year was the Black Plum.  It's a prolific cherry-type Roma with a deep reddish-brown skin and meaty flavor.  While these are small, they are great to roast and tasty right off the vine.

The Cherokee Purples, a large fruited heirloom, also did well producing lots of meaty, dusky pinkish-red fruits.  These were great sliced on BLT's!

One Morning's Harvest!
And then there was the Green Grape.  I'll be keeping this one around too. It's also a cherry type, very prolific with oval shaped, yellowish-green fruit.  Since this was the first year for this type, I wasn't really certain when the fruits were ripe! It's when they turn a bit yellow!  They are sweet and tangy all at once and look gorgeous mixed in with the Sun Golds and Juliet's.  

It's bittersweet to see the Summer of 2011 come to an end -- all in all it was a pretty good harvest.  Now I'm busy saving seeds (more on that soon) and planting the fall to get that garlic in next week!

How was your garden this year?  I love to know what your standout were and what you recommend!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fall is the "New" Spring

Mid September finds most north Idaho gardeners busy bringing in the last of the tomatoes, cukes and summer squashes.  A late summer heat wave earlier this month really helped those heat seekers move along to luscious ripeness and the bounty is rolling in at the Second Street Chicken Ranch.

But I'm summer crops are still going strong.  Why, you ask, is this a problem?  Because I'm ready, and nearly late, for planting the winter crops.  Yes, you read that correctly, winter crops.

Who, in their right mind, would attempt to grow anything in north Idaho over the winter? What with frigid temperatures, freezing rain and several feet of snow? Well, I for one; and I'm betting that there are more.  You see, fall has become the new spring.  Yep, just like 50 is the new 30! (Hey, I'm buying into that more and more these days!). 

It's not impossible -- even here at 47 degrees latitude -- to have a successful crop of greens without a greenhouse.  Last fall I planted spinach, covered it with straw for no reason other than to keep the cats out of the dirt, and this past spring I had the most delicious, tender spinach ever.  Intrigued, I found a book on winter gardening and started planning the winter garden. 

Now granted, you have to plant crops that like the cold and those are limited, but how fun is it going to be to pull carrots in December?  Have beautiful, fresh salad greens right up until Christmas?  And the bonus -- most winter crops overwinter and start regrowing early in the spring -- just like my spinach did last year.  What a great way to get a jump on spring.

So, here I am, happily harvesting the beautiful fruits of summer, but instead of lamenting the pending end of the season, I am eagerly awaiting the next step.  I'm not putting the garden to bed this fall, but freshening the sheets and moving into the 3rd season.  

What about you, any plans for a winter crop?
Related Posts with Thumbnails