Cough, cough... the smoke is finally clearing out and the ash is being swept away. We are now able to get out in the garden again. It has been hard. Personally, we had become used to sitting outside and enjoying coffee in the mornings and maybe a glass of wine in the evening, just to cool off. Now, we have been battling sore throats and itchy eyes.
Even though we have been dealing with some smoke, others in the gorge, have had to deal with much worse. There is an overwhelming urge to try and help those that have been affected by these fires, but we would recommend that you take your lead from officials in that area. The Friends of the Columbia Gorge, the US Forest Service and other groups will be organizing events in the gorge in the late fall and early next spring, and we recommend you contact them before heading to the gorge with a shovel and a pruner.
This week we featured...
In the late summer and early fall people are busy in the gardens harvesting their fruits and veggies. This is the time of year when people are also looking at ways to preserve their bounty. We learn more about how to tackle this when we stopped by Blooming Junction (503-681-4646) in Cornelius and met with Justin who is the farmer for the farm there. Yup, Blooming Junction has a farmer on staff. They are not only known for the great plants they carry, but also their fresh grown produce. With all this produce they are also offering lots of classes including one on fermenting vegetables.
A perfect example of fermenting is sauerkraut. For sauerkraut that means you are using beneficial bacteria to process the sugars in the cabbage. This creates lactic acid which helps to preserve the cabbage. You simply chop up your cabbage and add salt, about 1.75 pounds of cabbage to one tablespoon of salt. If you have fresh cabbage from a farmers market it should have enough moisture in the cabbage to create your brine. Put the chopped cabbage in a jar, with the brine covering the cabbage and let it set for 7 to 21 days, and it should be ready. It will be a little more acidic in flavor the longer you wait.
If you want to 'can' the sauerkraut to preserve it longer you can do that too. Canning is another way of preserving your veggies. Canning and pickling are great ways to save those summer flavors until the middle of winter. Justin showed us the pickles that they made and some beets that they had canned as well. If you are looking for some great vegetables for canning, or just enjoying for dinner, you can stop by their location near Cornelius. They also have a bunch of canning and preserving classes too, simply check out their website for times and dates.
Fort Vancouver Garden
What was gardening like for pioneers after they arrived on the Oregon Trail? To try and get an idea, we stopped by the interpretive garden at Fort Vancouver, just across the Interstate Bridge in Vancouver, Washington. This National Historic Site is pretty recognizable from I-5 because of the old wooden fort structure which you can see from the freeway, but what you can't see is how huge the garden is. This garden is full of fruits, flowers and vegetables that a lot of pioneers would recognize if they were here.
We met with Nancy, who organizes all the volunteers that grow and maintain the garden. She told us that they strive to make sure that they are historically accurate. They used the 'Cultural Landscape Report' which features research into what they were growing in the 1840s.This pulled information from letters and journals, seed lists from ships and even documents of what they ate. Because of this they are 99 percent accurate with the types of fruits and vegetables that the pioneers would use. They also strive to preserve them as the pioneers would including drying, salting and pickling. A lot of the vegetables grown in the garden are used in demonstrations at the fort for interpretive programs. The use of flowers in the garden is also important. People not only grew flowers in the garden for medicinal use, but they also had them around for decoration and enjoyment.
If you would like to see the garden it is open most of the time since it is outside the fort walls, but this weekend on Saturday the 9th you can enjoy the garden and the fort during their 'Campfires and Candlelight' event from 4pm to 10pm. That night you can be transported back in time to September 1845 to experience what it was like for people at the fort. Bring the family and enjoy this wonderful evening.
Everyone wants to support the pollinators, especially honey bees. In fact, a lot of people have added bee hives to their backyards and gardens, but it takes a lot more effort than just placing a hive and walking away. It takes a lot of maintenance too. That means on-going tasks throughout the year, including harvesting honey! To learn more about how to do that, we met with John Edwards from Ruhl Bee Supply (800-BEESWAX(233-7929)) in Wilsonville. He took us on a little trip to a 'Bee Yard', which is what the hive area is called, near Oregon City. To start you have to check the hives to see if there is enough honey to harvest. People are always concerned that the bees will not have enough honey to survive if you take it, but bee keepers add 'supers' (extra boxes) to the hive and the bees will keep filling those up as long as there is room. John also showed us how the hive can produce enough honey in the bottom portion of the hive to survive the long winter. If the upper supers are full of honey, then the bee keeper can harvest the honey. This is called 'Robbing the Hive'. These supers are full of bees so a VERY stinky fluid is used that chases them away from the top layers so the bee keeper can remove the supers without hurting the bees. The supers that are full of honey are then taken to the Honey House.
The farm we visited belonged to a wonderful bee keeper named Kerry, and he had a great honey house. We started preparing the combs for harvest by using an 'uncapping knife' to slice off the top of the comb, opening the cells, exposing the honey. This worked well, but we still needed a 'capping scratcher' to open up the few cells that were still sealed shut. Once the combs are open they are placed in a Honey Extractor and spun at a high speed to spin out the honey. It collects at the bottom of the extractor and empties into a bucket with a large screen to remove the impurities. The honey is now ready to use, and it is delicious!!!
This is just the end process of a season of bee keeping and it is considered the best part by lots of people because of the tasty reward, but there is so much more to bee keeping. If you are interested in bee keeping or you would like to purchase some wonderful honey products, check out Ruhl Bee Supply in Wilsonville. They have everything you need, including helpful staff to get you started!
14 Gallon Challenge
The recent natural disasters in the US and around the world has people keen on disaster preparedness. A key part of that is saving enough water for you and your family. To get some tips on doing that we stopped by the home of Bonnie from the Regional Water Providers Consortium. There she told us about the 14 gallon challenge. 14 gallons is the amount of water that you should save for each person in your family. That amount should cover 1 gallon, per person, per day for 2 weeks. Half of that daily amount is for drinking and the other half is for cooking and hygiene. Bonnie took us to her garage to show us her supply. She had quite a bit of water saved. Two large 55 gallon barrels were full, plus she had numerous smaller bottles and other containers full of water. She empties and refills the containers every 6 months to a year to keep them fresh, and if they get older than that she has household beach to purify them if needed.
Right now the Regional Water Providers Consortium is having a 14 Gallon Challenge and offering prizes for the winners. All you have to do is get your 14 gallons, take a selfie with your stores of liquid gold and post it on social media with the hashtag '#14gallons', and challenge 3 of your friends to do the same and you could win a disaster preparedness related prize. You can also go to the RWPC website for details on the contest and more tips on disaster preparedness.