What’s Growing in Northern California – Harvest Update June 3rd

It’s been a huge blessing to work from home. A fifteen minute break can be spent watering the garden and watching birds dance around the bird feeder. A lot of winter crops are starting to reach maturity. Spring peas are just past their peak. I’m letting some mature on the vine to harvest seeds for sowing in fall. I shelled the others. What’s nice about sugar snap peas is that you can eat them at any stage. A great variety I’ve always loved for its versatility.

Walls walls onions.

The fava beans have been cut but I left the roots in the ground for the added benefit of carbon sequestration and organic material. Onions may have got stressed out at some point because some are starting to flower which affects their taste and ability to store well. I’m picking them sooner than I want. I’ve planted more seeds for a fall crop so I’m hoping those provide better results. The tops never did yellow and fall down. This crop was Walla Walla, the onion I just planted are Spanish Yellow. We will see if there is a huge difference in bulb size and growth pattern.

Sugar snap peas shelled.


No waste garden notes:
It’s very hard to keep up eating everything in the garden without letting the products go bad. Even with a small kitchen garden, lettuce will flower, peas go unpicked, and beets get forgotten in the fridge. Every few days I try to get into the kitchen and think of food I can make with what’s in season. Grow what you eat often is a way to avoid too much food going to waste. That’s something I continue to practice and mention in this blog.

Drought notes:
Warm weather is around us and we’ve had very little rainfall in California. One way to help with water use is mulching. I can’t say it enough, it helps keep water in the soil and adds organic material that builds healthy soil. There is some concern about wood chips stealing nitrogen from plants but I’ve had plenty of success using it and don’t plan on stopping. Check out my post on mulch here.

List of To-Do’s in the garden:
– Weed, tons of crab grass still coming up even though sheet mulching (process of laying down cardboard and mulch) helped with a lot of it.
– Finish planting summer crops.
– Plant celery seeds. Such a great plant to grow because often you don’t need a whole bunch for a specific recipe.
– Continue harvesting spring crops.
– Tie up rest of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Harvest Update

Today, I went out to harvest turnips from the garden. It’s always a pleasure to grow a plant successfully that you’ve never grown before. It’s a balancing act, you don’t want to plant veggies that you’ll never eat but you want experience growing some veggies that can add to your palate and food storage. Here in Northern California, i planted these seeds in February and I’m harvesting them now in late May. The variety is an heirloom variety called purple top white globe and the seeds were bought from seed savers exchange. I have to say that the termination rate for these seeds was excellent. I admit that I didn’t thin these as much as I should have but the crop still turned out well. These turnips will be made into a mashed turnip recipe mixed with potatoes and turnip greens and a whole lot of butter.

Purple Top White Globe Heirloom Turnips

Also in the basket of today’s harvest was some fava beans. Tore most of them out to make room for summer crops. I took the tops of the fava beans and shredded them with the lawn mower for compost and left the roots in the bed to decompose. Pretty cool that you can see the nodules that help the bean fix nitrogen.

Home grown fava beans.

Making Spicy Kimchi

It’s so great to have garden space and a “big” kitchen again. Don’t get me wrong, eating out is great but there’s something that feeds the soul when making a meal with your partner. The teamwork and the ability to enjoy something you created right then and there. What’s this all have to do with Kimchi? Well, having the garden and kitchen has gotten me back to my cooking and fermenting ways. Along with a partner that encourages me every step of the way, I’m being pushed to new heights and challenges. With our new found love for kimchi fried rice, it renewed my interest in making kimchi from scratch. A trip to the Asian market to pick up the goods and I went quick to work. Gojuchang, a Korean pepper paste along with garlic, fish sauce, ginger, scallions, a huge Napa cabbage, and some salt. Does that not sound like it will be good?

I loosely followed the recipe found here: https://www.feastingathome.com/how-to-make-kimchi/

Here is the delicious kimchi fried recipe, super simple! https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018097-kimchi-fried-rice

I will report back when it’s done fermenting, until then, enjoy being on this beautiful planet.

Make Your Own Easy DIY Scrap Wood Potting Bench

Easy simple pottery bench.

Everyone with a house seems to have a pile of wood that stacks up over time. Odds and ends, maybe some pressure treated 2x4s or one too many fence boards. What better way to use this wood than using your imagination to create something useful.

Anybody can make one of these simple potting benches with a saw, drill and some extra wood lying around. I’m not going to lay out exactly how to make the design I made because you may have different scrap wood lying around than I do. What I will do is show you some pictures of what I came up with, some general tips, and encouragement to get out there and try!

What you might need:
Scrap wood
2 1/2″ self drilling screws.
Impact drill (standard drill works too)
Circular saw (or a hand saw if you’re looking for a workout.)

I added some hooks and nails to hold scissors for harvesting greens and a spot to hold my hori-hori.

I suggest looking at a few designs before starting out. I searched google for simple designs and modified the design to fit my needs and work with the materials I have on hand. I wanted a shelf so I chose to run the 2x4s up the back. I also wanted a place to store soil underneath so I installed a shelf. The bench can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. There’s something magical about creating something of your own design then putting it to use right away. Happy Gardening!

Toyota Camper Van – Adding Carpeted Panels

Now back from another camping trip on the Yuba River where owls hooted through the night and osprey glided above the water during the day. My focus has now shifted towards polishing the rough edges of my camper build on my 1985 Toyota Van. I personally like to go camping, I don’t like to wait for my van to be “perfect.” I’d rather spend time in remote areas then worrying about putting a final piece of trim up. With that said, I’ve taken some time off of work and with that time, I can make some aesthetic as well as functional improvements to the build.

My new friend Eric showed me a method of building some panels by wrapping the wood in cheap carpet. The key is to use carpet with no backing. I used some utility plywood (about 11 dollars for a 4’x8′) and bought some carpet 10’x12′ (60 dollars) to make the inside a little more cozy and polished. I also think the carpet/wood combo has some insulation properties as well as reducing outside noise. I attached the carpet with a staple gun to the wood then screwed the wood to the metal using self drilling/tapping screws meant for metal. An impact driver and the screws make this job easier. Do not use wood screws for this job or you will be having a heck of a time.

Tools for the job, self drilling/tapping screws 3/4″ and a impact driver.
Roof with insulation before adding plywood with carpet.
Roof after adding carpet.
Back windows are covered but didn’t cover mid windows because it’s nice to have a view. Can you spot the tenkara rod?

DIY Compost Bin Made from Pallets

Pallets are everywhere for free. Check Craigslist and you’ll probably see something local. Often, they’re thrown behind dumpsters. Here’s a pallet 2 stage compost bin I made from some pallets I picked up. The idea is that one side will be loaded first then by the time the next side is full, the first one should be fully composted. The front is from paint my brother was throwing out.
**I chose to line with hardware cloth because of rats but is definitely not required.

Mock up of compost bin.
A branch from a tree I cut was used as a brace.
Inside of the compost bin that’s been lined with hardware cloth.
Finished compost bin made out of pallets.

pleasures of power washing

The problem with a new tool is it can soon become your favorite tool for every job. While that may not sound terrible, it can be a detriment. For example, when I decided an angle grinder was the best tool to get a stuck drum off my van (it didn’t work.) A pressure washer is one of these tools that has quickly become my recent tool to obsess over. I’m not the only one that recognizes the joys of uncovering a pristine surface under a muddied exterior. See r/powerwashingporn on Reddit or find Youtube videos with millions of views. Imagine being the doer and not the spectator. Imagine holding that magical wand and disappearing years of filth that would have taken many painstaking hours to clean by hand. Glorious! My new purchase this past week was a gas pressure washer. I have used electric but nothing compares to the force of a gas powered unit. With that force comes ear wrecking small engine noise but I think it’s worth it, my neighbors don’t.

All hail the screaming banana, a used Workforce 2500psi 163cc bought for the Facebook marketplace price of $180. I don’t like to own tools just to have them, this tool will get a lot of use and is a great addition for many DIY tasks around the home.

Workforce pressure washer did handy work with these bricks.
Cement cleaned up real nice.
This one was cool power washing discovery. A cobblestone path under 5 inches of soil.

van camping in the shasta/trinity marble mountain beauty

There are some places that are filled with beauty everywhere you look. Despite recent fires in the area, Shasta-Trinity area is one of these places. Alpine lakes, cold streams, single track trails, and secret swimming holes. In July we chose to load up the van and take a 5 day trip to explore the area that for me is filled with familiar and still unfamiliar places. We made our way along dirt and gravel roads in the old Toyota. It held up just fine and it was nice knowing that we can stop anywhere, sleep, make lunch and have everything one would need.

A view from Sawyer’s Bar Road.

We made our way around up I-5 through Redding and past Whiskeytown Lake which was burned recently. I’ve never stopped at this lake before but it’s nice view driving by. I believe I’ve seen some sailboats in this lake too which would be a lot of fun. Sometime after Whiskeytown Lake you take a right and meander over and around Trinity Lake and the KOA campground. Somewhere after the KOA campground, we took a left and drove down a paved road that eventually turned to gravel and has many trailheads for overnight backpacking trips. You’ll pass waterfalls even in the middle of summer. It was late at night and the new LED headlights lit up the road well. I knew where the waterfall is alongside the road and made a special stop. We could hear the sound of the waterfall and with a quick flip of the switch, the side spotlight lit up this beautiful waterfall. The best use of the side spotlight so far. We eventually made it into camp and were grateful that it wasn’t occupied.

An advantage of the van is that no bed needs to be made. We popped open the back of the van, made some tea, danced and watched the stars late into the night. We then decided it was time to go to bed but not before admiring the Milky Way and watching the bats dance above our heads. There’s nothing like falling asleep to the sound of a rushing creek except for the sound of waking up to rushing creek.

Along a dirt road in Shasta-Trinity National Forest area.

I set up my tenkara rod and tossed a few dry flies into the nearby creek, pulling out a couple small rainbows before deciding to take a cold dip. We stripped our clothes and took a dip into the icy cold water. We made breakfast, then made our way to a close trailhead where we packed our bags for a short hike. Not but one mile in we came across the small bear who also thought it was good idea to be on the trail today. What a magical animal to come across. Humans (including me at times) tend to walk around with fear of certain animals like sharks and bears but often they want nothing to do with us. This bear was no exception when it quickly ran off. We bathed again along the creek and green vegetation before heading back to the van.

Creekside.

The next day we head North through the town of Etna for a hike at Taylor Lake. We didn’t drive through Etna without stopping as the heat required an ice cream stop at the local cafe. We got back on the road and got to the trailhead where we met with a fire crew that just got done fighting a lighting fire. There was some smoke in the air but if you live on the West Coast, it was nothing like what we’ve faced in recent weeks. A friendly crew that was quite lively, dirty, and grateful for the ability to work outside. We thanked them for the work they do before we answered a few questions about the van and headed towards Taylor Lake. Smith Lake requires you to reach hike to Taylor Lake (1 mile) then head straight up a slope which is quite intense, especially in the sun. We made it to the top where it meets the PCT and tried to find a route down to Smith Lake but it was pretty gnarly so we decided to head back to Taylor Lake. If we spent more time route finding we could have made our way down but at that point we were low on water and wanted to take a swim which Taylor Lake was the perfect place for that. Taylor Lake is pretty popular so heading down to Smith Lake will get you away from the crowds.

A beautiful garden in the cute town of Etna.

At this point, it was time to find a place to sleep for the night and get prepared for our next hike which was going to be to Statue Lake. Halfway up the road to Statue Lake, we found a spot to pull over next to a creek and it was nice place to lay our heads, do some bird watching and cook dinner.

A rock where we enjoyed a morning meditation together.

The next day we woke up slowly, watched the birds, deer came to visit and they were curious about what we were doing. We made our way to the trailhead and began our hike. A lot of the area up to the top is burned but there were some nice wildflowers blooming along the trail. Statue Lake had visitors when we arrived but we were glad we made the stop. Jumping off the rock on the far side of the Lake, laying in the sun and enjoying being far away from cell service.

A beautiful woman and a beautiful lake (Statue Lake).

The last night was spent along the N. Fork of Salmon Creek where we found a spot all to ourselves. The fishing wasn’t great but the creek was ride and Mallory found a spot to take a cold plunge. We danced until the stars came out and the full moon showed itself. We were feeling the fullness of the moon and the trip as we counted down our last hours.

dry car camping along highway ca-89

A sweet lil’ tune on the banjo.

(This trip occurred in Spring 2019)

One way to get to the East Sierras from the Bay Area is through Highway 89. Most people’s destination lie past this highway and along highway 395 somewhere but I argue to take a stop along this highway to enjoy the beauty this area has to offer. CA-89 goes through a goo size portion of California and for this post I’ll be talking about the part of the highway south of highway 50. Along this section of the highway you’ll make your way along the West Fork of the Carson River which I’ve never fished but have heard of good fly fishing and often see many lining this section of River.

Section of CA-89 we travelled.

Where 89 meets CA-88, if you turn right and head East on 88, you’ll see pull outs for a couple miles that offer access to fishing the West Fork of Carson River. This adventure had us turning left and continuing on 89 through the cute town of Markleeville. Right after the turn about a 1/4 mile up and on your right is a bakery/cafe worth stopping at (Hope Valley Cafe).

West Fork Carson River past the Hope Valley Cafe.

As you travel further down the road, you’ll drive right through the town of Markleeville. Markleeville is a quaint town and is the start of the Death Ride, a bicycle ride that transverses the passes. Those who finish this ride will have travelled 125 miles and climbed 25,000 feet in elevation. I’ll save my legs this time around but I do plan to do this ride some day! You can stop in town at the deli cafe for a breakfast burrito or sandwich or take a peak inside the information center to learn more about the town. There’s also a small post office and general store. The river follows the highway until 89 turns off and heads East. Along this stretch of the highway, it’s worth stopping for a break and a nice walk around Heenan Lake. Heenan Lake is full of heritage trout, if you wait long enough around the shores of this lake, you’ll see schools of very large trout, quite the scene. If you happen to visit in spring, you’ll also be given a nice wildflower show that coats the hillside.

A view from the hillside at Heenan Lake (June).

Between Heenan Lake and 395 is where we pulled off and tested the off road capabilities of my 85 Toyota Van. We were lucky to find a spot that was private, although not close to water, it was located around some beautiful woods with great bird watching and day hikes. It’s amazing what you see when you pull off the highway, park your car and take hikes over tops of mountains. Valleys filled with quiet except for the birds that scatter amongst the brush and blooming scrub.

A view we were treated with on a day hike from camp.
The colors of wildflowers were beautiful. The camera never captures the full beauty.

We spent a beautiful 3 days here, waking up, watching birds, playing the banjo, and taking day hikes to see what others can’t see while driving on the highway. We ate simply and enjoyed the slowness of it all. Cool mornings, morning coffee and allowing ourselves to sit in one spot til the birds became comfortable with our presence is something that was so refreshing and energizing. It was lovely time of relaxation and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

A view of our campsite along CA-89.
Buster doing his morning yoga.