Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More Vintage Fun & Excitement

(Pretty necessary around here if the weather keeps up its current trend of endlessly rainy and cold days)

I drove my grandfather to a doctor's appointment earlier this week, and the office happened to be nearly next door to one of my usual thrifty haunts. Their prices are generally far too high, in my humble opinion, for merchandise they have received for free, and the volunteers who work there are all cranky and appear as though they have been sucking on lemons for far too long, but they have the greatest - the GREATEST! - vintage rack in the middle of the store. Furs, coats, hats, dresses, oh my! Normally, I almost always find something there, even with their ridiculous prices ($14 for a DRESS!? $300 for a broken down room divider!? Are you KIDDING ME?!?!?!). Well, today I listlessly sorted through the rack of clothing, not finding very much. I did, however, notice two 1950s mink collar coats for $40 each that are IDENTICAL to two I picked up at the Goodwill for $4.99 a piece last October. Seriously, this thrift store needs to fire whichever member is pricing items out. Anywho, I always make sure to check the floor under the clothing rack before I go, because many a time things fall and no one notices them with all of the suitcases and other items piled up against the already-overloaded clothing rack. That, of course, was when I struck gold! The most adorable 1940s (maybe early 1950s, but I highly doubt it) dress for $7! The label read "Brentwood Cottons by Penney's." It was so cute! The belt was missing, so my grandmother (ever the wonderful - and generally successful - haggler) went over to the giant back room where they sort incoming donations and asked a lady to find a matching belt for the dress. When one was found (not the original, but a cute replacement), she put it through the loopholes on the dress's waist. The thrift store volunteer said, "Oh, wait, let me put a price on the belt." My grandmother replied, "Honey, the dress was supposed to come WITH a belt, so this gets included as one piece." The wise volunteer knew better than to argue with the determined little Italian lady. And, because it was Monday, I got 20% off of my dress! Normally, Mondays and some Fridays, "all clothing and shoes are 20% off" there according to their signs (it does not say ANYWHERE that vintage is not included, nor do they mention any exceptions to the discount). However, if you try and bring up a piece of VINTAGE clothing, the cranky volunteers will generally deny you the discount. How a dress - vintage or not - doesn't count as a clothing item is beyond me! Like I said, these people are out for all of the money they can get (can you tell they annoy me?). I have given many a thought to bringing a white-out pen with me in order to blank out the "vintage" on the tag just so that they won't have any room to pull that BS, but I'm far too honest of a person, sadly. So when the (new-looking) volunteer rang up my dress and took the 20% off, I nearly jumped for joy (I restrained myself til we got outside)!

Surprising all of us, Gramps requested that we take him to another thrift store in downtown after his doctor's appointment, so off we went! There I found, to my immense joy, that the 1940's Cheongsam dress w/matching jacket (originally marked $12) was on clearance for $3! I snapped that thing right up! It has a metal side zipper, and snaps up along the shoulder. The material is a beautiful iridescent blue-green silk, with a modest slit on the side and a high collar. I love it!

This was definitely a good thrifting day.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Much-Needed Day Out...

On Saturday, my BFF (that would be my husband, for those of you who have not figured this out by now) and I headed out into town to do some antique/thrift/etc-store shopping. I've been on some pretty nasty medicines the past week, and have been horrifically sick (ironically, that's been more the result of the medicine than the illness! - Go figure. I hate taking medicine. Side effects are a vile, vile, thing). To take my mind off of things, and because we were both in need of some fun date time, we decided to go out and about. At the first thrift store, Ryan found a gorgeous, hand-carved, solid cocobolo wood box. It was broken on one side, but most of the wood was still useable. What had him so excited was that he paid 50 cents for what amounted to roughly $18 worth of wood! We went to a few more antique stores, where I found a gorgeous pair of long rhinestone earrings with the old-fashioned screwbacks (this dates them to the 1940s-50s or so). I also found the cutest 1940's hat for $3.95! That's cheaper than I normally pay at the THRIFT STORE!! It's a Henry Pollack, and consists of a black felt skullcap with a front of felt and sequin spirals. There is also a veil of black netting, but it's so torn up that I think I may just remove it and wear the hat minus the veil.

I love that I am wearing my farm clothes in this picture - *laughing*

Ryan found several tools he initially wanted at some of the antique stores, but upon closer inspection, each one had some sort of major flaw that would be too much work to fix. It always makes him sad to see tools that have been so abused (the same way I feel about vintage hats who have not been well taken care of!). That afternoon, I begged to stop by one final thrift store, since it was on the way to the Grange Co-Op (where we were headed before returning home for the day). There, I struck gold!: a $7 1940's house dress in EXCELLENT condition! There are only a few stains around the shoulders that I was unable to soak out. Structurally, the dress is completely sound (odd for something that old that I found in a thrift store), and though the matching belt has definitely seen better days, it too is still entirely useable. The dress is composed of this gorgeous rose/flower pattern on a white background, and with pink piping for accent. There are two buttons (one each) on the shoulders, and then the front contains buttons about halfway down the dress. The buttons are these adorable carved pink confections! I love them! The dress also has DEEP pockets, perfect for gardening! In short, I have found my newest (old) gardening smock!

I also found an adorable vintage wiggle dress in a fun, colorful print, with what I like to call a "Joan" collar and matching belt. The dress has a metal side zipper, but someone in later years added an additional nylon zipper in the back. Having sewn a dress before that had a metal side zipper (and then realizing that a back zipper made life SO much easier in regard to getting the garment on and off), I COMPLETELY understand why this person put it on there! The dress is in great condition as well! I can't wait til the weather warms up a bit more so that I can wear all of my lovely vintage finds!

Finally, we stopped at the Grange to buy the remaining poultry supplies for the baby chicks and ducklings that are headed our way next week (I'm so excited!). We actually gave our flock of mature hens to a pet-only home (they had stopped laying, and we didn't have room for 20 old hens and 25 new ones), so currently we have to buy our eggs from other farms. This is rather annoying, but I am excited for chicken/duck eggs in the future!

More heirloom bean seeds have been arriving every day. I received my (very generous) packet of Lenape Cutshort/Indian Hannah beans, as well as my Coco Sophie and Dinkelbuhne bean seeds. The coriander and quinoa are just beginning to sprout up in the garden, and I noticed tiny purslane sprouts amongst my spinach/salad bed seedlings yesterday! Though the weather has been just barely above freezing at night and wet/rainy lately, things are still germinating (better late than never, I suppose). Hurray!

P.S. - I let (ok, ok, I begged/pleaded/threatened) Ryan cut about 6 inches off of my hair. It was so long that it was driving me crazy, and I didn't feel like trying to book myself a salon appointment. So I handed him a pair of scissors and let him hack away. It still tries to 'fro a bit (my hair is very thick and wavy, especially when the length is shorter), but it feels and looks SOOO much better now! I'm quite happy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Peppers Can Be Weird Too

So, here is something new for me: about 40% of my PBC-211 peppers are germinating as albino plants! Now, I know that with artichokes (which don't reproduce true to form via seed) you are supposed to weed out the white/small plants and just let the big ones grow. However, pepper plants DO reproduce true to form, so I know that this is something different...perhaps there is some variation in color (such as in fish peppers) with this species, but not being able to find out ANYTHING about this pepper, I can only guess.

So, long story short, I am excited to see what sort of wonderfully weird peppers both forms of the PBC-211 grow into!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Beans of New York (and Oregon!)

My long-awaited "Beans of New York" text has finally arrived!!! Yippee! It also coincided with the arrival of 100 feet of reemay row cover for making my isolation cages, as well as the appearance of my Scarlet Runner Bean sprouts (I always start them early since they like cooler weather to set beans and need a loooooong season)! SPRING IS HERE!!!

"Beans of New York" is a wonderful reference for heirloom beans, and contains beautiful full-color plates of many varieties. Yes, there are flaws in the naming/descriptions/etc., but it is still a worthwhile read and investment.

P.S. - Soooooo many tomatoes!...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring Equinox!

('Bout freaking time it got here!!)

The Spring Equinox is the time when the days and nights are of equal length, and soon the days will continue to lengthen until the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, is reached. The three days around March 20/21 are celebrated as Ostara or Alban Eiler (aka "Light of the Earth"), and is the time of the triumph of light over darkness, and when the seeds of new ventures should be planted. This is the time to sow the seeds of hope and change for the coming warmth of summer. May your hopes and dreams come into fruition as the year progresses.

Speaking of seeds...

As I mentioned yesterday, I received one of my SSE seed requests in the mail, containing a vast multitude of heirloom bean seeds. Here is exactly what my $4 bought me:

Amish Knuttle


Blue Coco

Purple Hyacinth
Tucomares Chocolate Runner Bean
Black Soy Bean
Blue Lakes Special (a dry bush bean developed by a fellow SSE member!)

Potawatami Lima (Pole) Bean

Borlotto Stregonta
Haricot Rouge Du Burkina Faso Cowpea

Can't wait to plant them all! Still more heirloom bean seeds on the way, including the beautiful and elusive Flagg (aka "Chester" or "Skunk Bean" for its unusual black & white markings).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cobwebs and Crinolines...

(My husband made a special request that this be the title!)

Ryan and I went out and about today, running errands all over town. He did unbend enough to take me into the Sally Store along the way, where I discovered a multitude of pretty crinoline slips (I have been in desperate need of some!) and a gorgeous vintage 1960s dress by "Miss Elliette of California." The brown dress goes well with my coloring and fits like a glove, and I LOVE the hand-beaded belt!

Getting the uber-poofy crinolines home was VERY interesting, considering that we were in our tiny pickup truck! I was basically buried in crinolines for most of the day...which prompted some strange looks from other drivers. Teeheehee.

Anywho, the title of this blog is "Cobwebs and Crinolines" because those poor crinolines were in DESPERATE need of some love and cleaning! They were covered in cobwebs and dead spiders, which of course prompted a great joke from Ryan: "That doesn't speak well for previous wearer's love life!" SNAP! *laughing* I think it's safe to say that there will be no cobwebs in the crinoline(s) of MY love life!

The outing (and wonderful vintage items) were a great pick-me-up after yesterday's NOT FUN last minute doctor's visit. They finally managed to squeeze me in yesterday afternoon, and I was run through numerous not-fun tests to try and determine the cause of my problems. Of course, being me, I have them stumped. SO, there will be lots more tests and general merriment in store for me in the near future. Awesomeness. NOT. On the bright side, one of my SSE seed requests arrived! I got a bunch of heirloom bean seeds! This is what $4 will get you:

My favorites out of this package are the Amish Knuttle and Snowcap (pictured):


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bean Buying Binge

I received my copy of Fearing Burr's 1865 edition of , "The Field and Garden Vegetables of America," yesterday! I was very happily surprised at the book's excellent condition, given the fact that it's about 150 years old!! It has the beautiful pressed-type and old woodcut drawings...I LOVE IT!!

Now I am just waiting on my uncirculated, mint-condition, 1931 copy of "Beans of New York" (aka the much-flawed but oft-quoted "Bean Bible.").

I've spent a small fortune (and given my husband a large aneurysm) on heirloom pole bean seeds from my SSE member yearbook/catalog. There are just so many beautiful and fascinating heirloom beans, and pole beans can be easily grown along a fence without taking up precious garden space!!! Yay!

You can read about the varieties I will be growing in this year's garden on our new "Kitchen Gardens" page of our B&B website. That just shows a sampling of what's available, not everything that we actually grow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Crazy Weekend (What Else is New?)

Our unusually-high levels of weekend insanity began Friday evening, when I made the mistake of asking Ryan to use the tractor to till my 2nd Garden. It's pretty much been raining here constantly for as long as my short term memory can remember. Friday showed a small break in the weather, and I thought that it would be a GREAT time to clear out the muck in the donkey pasture and put it on the garden! What I didn't take into consideration is that I should have given the soil a full day to dry out. Oooops. So, the tractor got a little stuck...okay, a LOT in, literally "knee deep (or axle deep) in sh*t." Poor Ryan had to shovel the thing out. Don't worry - I made sure to buy him a LARGE beer later that evening! So on Saturday, we mostly ran errands: I purchased Adirondack Blue potatoes from a local gardening store, and new luxury bed sheets for the Apothecary Suite. The weather stayed relatively dry throughout the day, so that by the time late afternoon came, the soil in the 2nd Garden was dry enough to try another go at tilling it. This time: SUCCESS! So now, my 2nd Garden is completely tilled and ready for all of its planting! We also managed to get the first tilling/amending performed on the Pasture Garden that day too. I was pretty pleased!

I noticed on Friday that my turnip seeds and kohlrabi seeds were germinating in the 2nd Garden! Yay! Sunday morning, we planted a fennel/dill raised bed.

Sunday was the truly crazy day. I had read in the weather report that we were due for a severe wind/rain storm in the afternoon. So, after some quick gardening tasks in the morning, Ryan and I decided to head out and do a little relaxing and wine tasting before the storm hit (what can I say? We have either great or terrible timing...I can't tell which...). We wandered out to Wooldridge Creek Winery, where there were friendly staff, great wines, a warm fire, and a napping kitty. In short, a wonderful place to spend an afternoon! We had just finished our wine tasting, when we were offered a glass of wine (on the house) and the chance to sit and chat for a while longer. Wisely, we accepted. I was about two sips into my glass when the storm hit. Lightning, hail, winds so high that they sounded like a train coming at us, and practically horizontal rain fall! The wind blew the rain so hard that water came pooling in under the doors. At that point, the power went out. Thankfully, we had wine and a roaring fire, so all of us just sat and chatted some more until the worst of it died down. I have to say, that's not a bad way to spend a blackout! When the worst of the storm seemed to have passed, Ryan and I ventured back out to the car and homeward. Signs of the storm were EVERYWHERE in the tree fall and debris on the road. This was a doozy of a storm. When we got home, we said a little prayer of thanks for the front gate (which is electric, but has a back-up battery just for situations such as this) which still opened to let us in. The power was out at our property too (pretty impressive, since the winery was technically in Grants Pass!), so Ryan and I decided to use our gas-powered log splitter to get a big stack of firewood and then get both woodstoves going. First we checked on the neighbors and my grandparents, making sure everybody was ok and had everything they needed. Then, we lit candles, and played board games by the warmth of the living room woodstove. Dinner was cold leftover hamburgers from Saturday evening's cooking session. Finally, we decided to call it a night and crawl into bed. About 9:30 pm or so the power came back on, but blipped out again for a bit later in the evening. I was thankful that the night wasn't too cold since my greenhouse is powered by electric heaters, but if I had had to, I could have kept it warm using the living room woodstove. I suppose that is the benefit of having a greenhouse attached to your living room!

So that, in short, was our crazy weekend. No one can ever claim that life around here is boring!

Friday, March 11, 2011


Yesterday was wet, cold, and gloomy around here, so when I checked the mail and saw that my rare seeds from SSE had arrived, it was just the thing I needed to brighten my day! On this order (and yes, I have placed another one with them last week for rare pole bean seeds) I received Joya de Oaxaca ("Oaxaca Jewel" or "Jewel of Oaxaca" - whichever you prefer) tomato, Chile Congo de Nicaragua pepper, Chapeau de Frade pepper, PBC-211 pepper, Miscuchu pepper, and Piment de Bresse pepper seeds. Because most of the seeds were older than 6 years, SSE sent me double the normal amount (so I received 80 seeds of each variety). Most of the germination tests they ran put the rates at 35-39% - not very high, but when you consider how many out of 80 seeds will sprout at that rate, it's still a reasonable number for a home gardener. Yesterday, I started a new germination tray with Aji Limo(n) pepper, Thyme, Chapeau de Frade pepper, Brussel Sprouts, Joya de Oaxaca tomato, and Epazote seeds. Today, I need to get another tray going with the remaining pepper seeds, as well as my Ping Tung Eggplant seeds. So many seeds to germinate, and the season is already getting away from me! ACK!

My "Beans of New York" book (mentioned in my previous post) shipped out yesterday, so all of my books are now headed my way! Yippee! While I was researching heirloom beans, I came across ANOTHER excellent bean book: "American Varieties of Garden Beans" by William Woodbridge Tracy, Jr. I highly recommend buying yourself a copy (I plan to!), but in the mean time, Google Books has a free PDF file of the book available for download.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Looking Back to Move Forward

As I'm sure you've figured out by now: I love heirloom fruits, herbs, and vegetables. I refuse to grow hybrids or "moderns." If it's open-pollinated, and has been around for at least a few decades, you have my attention! Lately, and with some help from my hero Mr. Weaver, I've been researching old books that describe heirloom varieties. At first I thought that I would never be able to afford these books, as most are from the 18th & 19th century. Thankfully, many are available as reprints on websites such as Amazon for a reasonable price! With our recent tax refund came some designated "mad money" (about the only time we get any!), and I spent mine by purchasing three volumes (two originals, and a reprint):

"Beans of New York" by U.P. Hedrick
(the bean bible with "so many flaws" as Mr. Weaver puts it...)

"The Vegetable Garden" by Vilmorin

"The Field and Garden Vegetables of America" by Fearing Burr
(one of the celebrated and often-quoted texts on heirloom vegetables of the 1800's)

I managed to luck out on two of the books: I found an original copy of Fearing Burr's volume for the incredibly low price of $55 on, and thanks to Cornell University's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, I managed to purchase an original, uncirculated copy of the 1931 "Beans of New York." That's just pretty darn awesome.

There are many, MANY, other old volumes that I would love to own, but in the mean time, many are available as free PDF files off of Google Books and other websites. So I was able to download some of them for reading on my computer. That will tide me over for now! *grin*

While reading through my three purchased texts, I went a little crazy with the remaining portion of "mad money." In short, I made a great deal of purchases through my SSE Member Yearbook. This time, I focused on heirloom pole beans (which are easier to grow, in my opinion, than bush beans since they take up vertical fence space as opposed to horizontal ground space!). Though beans are self-pollinating, insects will and do force themselves into the flowers and cross-pollinate. The trick to avoiding this (at least as much as possible), is to plant plenty of flowers/flowering plants around your beans, to entice the bugs elsewhere. You'll almost always get SOME cross-pollination, but by using this method, you'll reduce the amount. The other tip is to not plant two beans of the same coloring near each other, because it will be impossible to tell if they have cross-pollinated!

The heirloom (and in some cases VERY rare) pole bean varieties I purchased for this year's garden include the following:

Amish Knuttle (or "Gnuddlebuhne," which translates as "bean that looks like a dropping" - no one can claim that (Amish) farmers don't have a sense of humor!)
Coco Sophie
Indian Hannah
Mostoller Wild Goose

I'm very excited for my summer garden! So many new-to-me heirloom varieties! Sometimes I love ordering varieties that I know nothing about, so that I can be absolutely surprised to see what they grow into!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

We've Arrived!

We have finally moved up in the world of advertising (well, as much as our meager finances are allowing this spring)! Look for our ads on the Britt Festival website!

(I'm really excited! - Can you tell?!?!)


As I was (very belatedly) pruning my last roses today, look what I noticed poking up to say hello!:

The asparagus is up!!

We always plant our asparagus with our strawberries and garlic, and thus far it's been a great companion planting arrangement. Maybe it's not the "approved" method, but if it works for us, then I'm sticking to it!

Some random pictures...

Here's a plate of heirloom dry pole & runner beans saved from 2010.

Here are my Scarlet Runner Bean seeds ready for planting this year! Most people don't realize that, besides being incredibly ornamental, you CAN eat runner beans as both snap and dry. I love multi-tasking vegetables!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Spring & A New Set of Wheels...

Can't wait to take this baby out for a spin!

It's been an unusual level of stressful insanity around here lately, but then what else is new? On the bright side, signs of spring are EVERYWHERE, and my favorite ones are shown below:

The peach trees are waking up, and soon will be decorating the property with their beautiful blossoms!

The Valerian is waking up!

The Black Cumin is sprouting!!

Here's one of my baby Applegate Valley Heirloom Tomato sprouts. This is one of about 700 sprouts or so currently in my greenhouse. I can almost taste those delicious, fresh tomatoes!!

We have decided to increase and diversify our poultry flock this year. I have ordered 26 assorted female "rainbow egg layer" chicks, 10 black Indian Runner ducklings (1 drake, 9 females), and 15+ bronze turkeys. We have been wanting ducks for ages - especially for the delicious eggs! - and we finally decided to just go ahead and get them! I can't wait to have the option of cooking with chicken OR duck eggs! And Runner ducks are so hysterical to watch...

Just today I finally purchased my long-awaited gigantic green "garden wagon," so that I can wheel loads of plants in and out of the greenhouse. Exciting! Also this year, we've put in more apple, plum, and cherry trees on the property! Our original apple trees are old enough to produce, and I think we'll get a decent harvest this year. Can't wait for apple cider some day!! Ryan has plans to build a cider press, and I know we are going to need it when all of our trees start really producing fruit in the coming years...