This post is actually written for my son Nick.

(But you can read it too if you want.  It’s about the peppers I’m sending him–because the guests just don’t seem to eat enough of them!)


Hi Nick!

He’s back east without a garden, dogging his doctorate in Econ, so I’m sending him some of “our” peppers.

Background: Nick as a twenty-something, exhibiting typical Forbes social skills, put himself “into training” to be able to eat very hot raw peppers with a flat affect.  The purpose of the “skill” was tempting his “friends” on the debate team to partake as well.   A sort of culinary, come on in, the water is fine. . .”

Of course this tempted me to try to grow something that even Nick could not eat.

(The apple does not fall very far from the tree.)

So, here’s what’s on the “pepper menu” here at the Odell House.

To the right of the Poplar Street door.

The pepper Chenzo,


A feisty ornamental, developed in England, that we planted last year in a pot.  It looked too pretty in the fall to let freeze, so we overwintering it in somewhat rugged conditions in unit 2.  Lots of heat, but little water and almost no care.  Lots of sun.

And it came back at us this spring with a perfect vengeance of peppers.

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Which remain almost unmolested.

Really, they do get almost sweet when they turn red. . .honestly.

Near them on the steps is an interesting little number, still green at present, called Hinkelhats.

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In our climate they may never look like they are supposed to above, red, but are so incredibly hot that Nick may be the only one to make a report on their flavor.


For those of you that must know “Hinkelhatz” is Pennsylvania Dutch for “Chicken heart” and they have been grown since the 1880s, according to Seed Savers Exchange, “Traditionally used for pickling and making pepper vinegar. Small fruits (¾” wide by 1-2″ long) ripen from green to glossy red. 80-90 days from transplant. HOT.”

Chicken hearts–they do kind of look like that.

To the left of the door, a lovely and prolific pepper that I have made more than one meal totally inedible by not taking out the seeds.  It is innocently called “Lemon Drop”

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Rare Seeds reports “Seasoning pepper from Peru ripens to a clear lemon yellow, sometimes with a dark purple blush. The flavor is a very clean, uncomplicated, slightly citrus-y heat. 2-foot plants are covered with the thin-walled, conical fruits which reach 2-3 inches in length, with very few seeds”

Our advice?  Even if it has just one measly seed, take it out.  Left of the door, eat all you can. Take some home.  (Prolific).

Then on the other side of the house there is a stash in our private area



These are Hungarian Wax and Sweet Banana.  (Nothing sweet about them.)

And some which you are quite free to ask for if you are in the mood to really hurt yourself.




The upward facing longer ones (1.5 inches or less) are, as they report, Super Chili.

The middle a somewhat intimidating “Vietnamese Tear-Jerker”.

The ones to the right of there, (up in the picture below,) the very small ones, are described as “tiny slivers of fire”.


Or by the very short Hmong woman that I bought the plants from this spring at the farmers market,

“Very hot.”  (Sly smile.)

One seed source identifies them as “Chinese Ornamental”  Later saying they are great for containers.

My question, containers of what? 

I have been too frightened to touch them–except when I packed up a couple of handfuls for Nick. . .


So there you have it!  If you want some left in your unit now is the time to ask!

Spokane Farmers Market

We have a rather nice farmers market here in Spokane.



Several in fact, but the one I usually use is open Wednesdays and Saturdays eight AM to 1 PM.

Mid May to Mid October on Saturdays and Wednesdays, about a month at either end only Saturdays.


It is located off the Division Exit of I-90.  Just to the south of the highway.  5th and Division, 5th and Brown.  There is a small field there that you can see from the highway.

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Why this particular market?  Well, loyalty for one thing because we were involved for a number of years selling hand spun yarn from our sheep and goats up at the farm.  Finally we just got too busy and had to cut back on that activity.  (Though I still spin on occasion and the carding equipment exists in the basement.)

Locally-produced food is undoubtedly better tasting and better for you and the planet.

Alice Waters from the Wall Street Journal

“This movement [valuing local food] poses a threat to fast-food businesses and industrial food companies, both of which I predict will continue to shape-shift and co-opt their values for profit. As long as their products continue to be supported by government subsidies, they will be successful. The reality is that the sustainable-food movement’s reach will grow only to a point and ultimately will be limited to those with access, means and education—unless legislators dramatically change food and agriculture policy.

I think that those in government will come back to their senses in the coming years and begin to subsidize farms instead of factories. As access to real food becomes increasingly divided between the haves and the have-nots, food security will become even more of a social-justice issue.”

(A good example oF corporate interest shape-shifting was the Starbuck’s infamous series of field trips to actual local coffee bars to see what ideas they could come up with to seem more “real.”  Apparently they took up a lot of space for a time and bought no competitor’s coffee.)

Here by the way is one of our favorite coffee roasters:


(Great coffee–you’ll find some and a grinder in your unit, but visit them too–right across the river in Kendall Yards)

The Farmers Market sadly offers no coffee, but makes up for it with several great bakers, cheese makers, organic meat (Beef, goat, pork, chicken)  seedlings, flowers, wonderful fruits and vegetables in season, and eggs.

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On weekends, when our little flock cannot possibly keep up with demand, we sometimes supplement our egg production with other home-kept chicken’s offerings.


Anyhow, the market is easy to find and not five minutes away by car, or an easy bike ride.  Go east on the Highway to Division St exit, bear right, go right at the light and it is there to your right.  Or wend your way through town, under the highway and follow 5th east until you run into the market field.

Late July foraging in the garden



The round Zucchini in the bales are very tender,


and the pole beans (two colors–purple and green–) need to be picked every day.  Please do so




In the Gazebo yard some green Walla Walla sweet onions are ready to uproot. I have planted upland cress under them. You’ll see lots of sprouts soon.




There are some interesting peppers are forming in the pots.  The black ones by the door–turning red in some cases–are very hot. (Very.)


The green ones less so–right now anyway.  The yellow generally down facing peppers are Hot Banana–but not too hot.  The yellow generally up facing at Hungarian Wax, and those will definitely get your attention. . .


On the other side, by the chickens we have some new snow peas planted–I ripped out the old ones as the heat had stopped production.  (Peas like cool weather and it has been anything but here of late.  (left below the ones that were taking over the world.)

There are some interesting greens with Tai Chili peppers in front of them to the right.  They are doing well and should be eaten.  The beet greens to the left of there need to stay on to nourish the beat crop.


Same for the shallots.  They will be better allowed to mature in the other raised bed.

Across the way are some bunching onions that need to be picked as green onions and some Swiss Chard that thinks it is too hot for a cold season vegetable. I have planted more of that too for the fall.

You will also find basil in the area shown above and to the left of the steps on Poplar Street. (Black oval pot on walk)

May 2014: here’s what’s growing

The first week of May in Spokane  (USDA zone 5 and sometimes 4) might not seem a great time for foraging in the garden.

Not so!

Cold season greens are plentiful and delicious–more so than in the hotter months in fact.  If you want to sample some, here is how to go about it.


A bit earlier this year I started some vegetables in the cold frames located near the chicken coop by the Odell House garage.


This is the one by the porch.  To the center left is a plant I planted and promptly forgot what it was.  The leaves are delicious, and I got a clue from a Japanese guest who looked at it and said “Turnip”

Yes, it is Hinona Kabu, described by the Kitazawa Seed Company

“A unique, long, thin, mild-flavored turnip that has a red top, and the bottom two thirds are white. It measures 1.5″ wide and up to 12” long. This traditional Japanese vegetable or dento yasai originated in the Shiga prefecture in the 1470’s. Used to make sakura zuke or cherry blossom pickle.

Other sources say its greens are delicious, (which they are) and we may get some of these:


IF I quit treating it like mustard greens. . .

In the meantime, as I drastically over crowded it:


Pulling some up by the roots and using it young would be just fine.  Good in eggs.

(I went out and pulled one up (instead of molesting the leaves as I had been doing,) and darned if it isn’t developing into a miniature pink and white turnip, which tastes–in this case and age–a lot like a mild radish–who knew?)

Another Kitazawa offering which I really like is also located in the opposite cold frame–and in the straw bale garden.


Early Mibuna–spinach mustard.  This is a “cut and come again” crop.  You just snip it off an inch or so from the base and it regrows.  Help yourself.

“This traditional Japanese green vegetable, dento yasai, is cultivated in Mibu, Kyoto prefecture. An early open pollinated variety, this vigorous grower produces a dense cluster of long, narrow, rounded, dark green leaves. The delicious leaves have a mild mustard flavor. Cut for baby leaves as early as 21 days. This variety is cold tolerant. It is very similar to mizuna green.”

Planted toward the rear of this box are Kyoto Red carrots–they won’t be ready for a while.

Another great leaf vegetable is Upland Cress and I like it so much I have multiple spots planted.


Here with a new group of chives between patches and onions in the foreground for later.

A good description from the blog
“For the simplest preparation, use upland cress the same way you would watercress. Left raw, the leaves can be chopped and mixed into a sald, tucked into a sandwich, or strewn over broiled fish as a garnish. Use a food processor to blend a handful of upland cress with a cup of Greek yogurt and a garlic clove or two for a lively accompaniment to grilled meats (I also love this as a spread on turkey sandwiches). Take note that the green’s spicy bite may be too much for those with a more delicate palate.)”


It is also “cut and come again” you just snip some off–it really is spicy sort of like horseradish.  Good in eggs.

And here is one you’ll recognize.


Swiss chard. This variety either rainbow or peppermint–though it does not taste like that for sure.  You harvest it by plucking off leaves at the base, leaving the plant four or five to keep going.  Good in eggs.


Here is another offering you’ll find familiar–and one that I have almost (almost) quit growing as other greens are so much more productive.  Spinach.


You can see it in the foreground in front of more chard.  It is also harvested by breaking off individual leaves.

And last, over by the driveway off Poplar Street, there are some strawberries planted (long way off producing anything) with some cold season Cole.   (Purchased as starts from Blue Moon and called “Oriental Cole.”)  Its leaves taste a lot like Napa Cabbage–and guess what?  Also good in eggs



Outside the cold frames and bales there is a large patch of Oregano to the left of the hose coupling on the west face of the house.


Just to the right (out of view) is a stand of chives.  You guesses it, a fine additive to eggs. . . .

We use no chemicals in the yard or garden but compost, organic lawn food or fish emulsion fertilizer.  As always, wash your produce–but really feel free to help yourselves.

Be there, and get square! Straw Bale garden seminar Blue Moon. April 11, 2015 10-12 AM

April 1.


Okay!  If you want to learn how to do this–and also learn from our mistakes from past trials–be there on April 11, 2015 10 AM–12 noon and we’ll go though how to cure your bales and what to expect.  Here’s a little tour from last year:


We have a group of bales curing in the Odell House west yard, about to become a vegetable plot.  And a stash of extra straw bales have arrived At Blue Moon Garden and Nursery center.

Blue Moon Garden & Nursery
1732 S. Inland Empire Way
Spokane, WA 99224

(509) 747-4255


$10 buys you a spot and a straw bale–good while supplies last.  (That’s the truth–they are limited.)


Blue Moon is just past the creek on Inland Empire Way–about three minutes from Browne’s Addition.

Straw bales can be a little hard to find at this time of year, and Blue Moon has about forty for sale–stacked on pallets to the back of the nursery–you’ll have to ask if you want some.

A straw bale garden is defined as “a different kind of container garden.”  Essentially you are using the water holding capacity of the straw–its hollow tubes make straw an expert in capillary action–and its rich source of carbon/soil bacteria.  You add nitrogen (pick your favorite)

Cheap, non-timed release lawn fertilizer, organic liquid fish emulsion, organic fish meal and blood meal, blood meal combined with ashes all work.

(And, if you feeling safe from arrest–as would certainly NOT  be the case here in Browne’s,–you can solicit “bale donations”  by hosting a kegger in your soon-to-be garden. . .)

Add nitrogen in generous quantities to jump-start decomposition in a VERY WET BALE.  And this can be a trick in a typically dry (as it should be) bale of straw with excellent drainage.  A sprinkler system at this time or regular dousing before addition of nitrogen really helps. (You wash much of the nitrogen away if you try to do both things simultaneously).


Anyway, a few weeks before planting add nitrogen–the organics in our experience in this dry climate work better as they tend to stay in place.

Start vigorous decomposition, and then take advantage of the heat that comes with it.

That is about as complicated as it is–a real fast start to your vegetable garden.  A logically easy way to take advantage of winter months would be to set out the bales to become soaked over winter and then start with the fertilizer.   A lot depends on your climate.  The bales at Blue Moon that are in the full sun that one would think to be ideal for a vegetable plot, tend to drain faster than my somewhat (half day) shaded group.  As with all things looking at your circumstances and learning from trial to trial is essential


Straw bales are ideal if:

*You are temporary.

*You don’t have good soil.

*You don’t have any soil–yes, pavement can be the base.

*Your soil is contaminated (lead paint, oil, pollution etc.).

*You don’t want to damage tree roots by tilling.

*You are late and think a vegetable garden would be nice, but really a lot of commitment.

A straw bale garden is NOT a lot of commitment because at the end of the season you can stuff it in either your compost pile, or in your Clean Green barrel for city collection.  A straw bale garden is also really easy if you are replacing an area of your yard already served by a sprinkler system.

A straw bale garden is relatively inexpensive.

My raised bed containers cost aver $300–more like $450 with the tops.  Ouch!


April 1, 2014                                                              June 21, 2014


July 18


The straw bales in the front (one of which has a trellis and row cover just like the box behind it) provide an equal amount of growing space and can be had from a a set of conditioned straw bales for under $30.

Row cover can add weeks to your planting horizon by making a micro climate for your seedlings.



And the straw bales themselves will hover at around 80 degrees after the first spike–creating a pleasant environment for your plants.


April 3, the start of curing three bales–which I enclosed in row cover to speed the process–it’s early and still cold here.


April 16, temperatures close to freezing last night and the new berry plants transplanted to the bales yesterday afternoon are happy as can be.  Below is a photo of one of the warmer ones luxuriating in the Blue Moon hoop house.


Mushrooms are a natural part of the decomposition process that is happening–as are the occasional oat sprout in this case form the oat straw bale.  (If it was a hay bale it would look like a Chia Pet in massive square form.


(Don’t do this–use straw where the seeds have been harvested, not hay where they are left to nourish the creature consuming them.)


(You’d have to be into horses to get this joke. . . )

Animal manure can be a problem both for the weed seeds it contains and other issues described below.


This is a potential problem that can occur with both compost–commercial and your own–and straw bale gardening.

In the last several years there has been a lot of worry about a relatively new class of herbicides that are known for taking an unusually long time to deteriorate, some staying active for several years, and which are highly toxic to certain commonly grown garden plants.  (Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillo, peas and beans are a few).

  • Picloram – sold as Tordon, Access, Surmount, Grazon, and Pathway.
  • Clopyralid – sold as Curtail, Confront, Clopyr AG, Lontrel, Stinger, Millennium Ultra, Millenium Ultra Plus, Reclaim, Redeem, Transline.
  • Aminopyralid – sold as Milestone, Forefront, Pharaoh, Banish.

This is a very good article about the issue,having to do with composting:

As is this:

And this:

The short version is that this class of broad leaf weed killers are commonly used on cereal crop lands, roadsides, power lines and in commercial uses.  (They have been banned from residential use because of the problem with grass clippings getting into the commercial composting process–happened right here in Spokane.)

BUT, manures can be a problem too. The product is reportedly not harmful to the animal when ingested, but neither is it broken down by the digestive process–nor by typical composting.  Which means that farm manures could be toxic to your garden.  And you can’t just ask the horse owner or straw grower.  These contaminants have been found in bagged grain products.  Purina is a name that has been implicated, but I am sure they are not the only ones.  And that means that virtually any organic source may no longer be safe.

What is the answer?

Locate your source for manure or straw in the fall and ask permission to perform a bioassay, which is growing a group of sensitive plants (peas for instance) in a control known not to be contaminated, and comparing their development with plants grown in your hopeful organic source. (With dry straw it is possible to soak the straw in water and then use that water on sensitive plants for your test.)

Obviously this is not practical with the bale from your local feed store whose stock rotates very quickly–nor do you want to purchase twenty bales without knowing if they are safe, because if your test fails then what do you do with them?

And that is where places like your local greenhouse can be a great boon–if they are willing to test.  (Which Blue Moon Nursery has done for their source, planting peas in various comparative bales and substrates–all clear.) Purchasing a bale from stock that has been tested is undoubtedly worth the extra you will pay for it.  Your first year straw garden will most likely flourish and then the resulting material can be composted safely in your home garden.

My general impression is we should be thinking pretty hard about those weed killers.

And I’m feeling more than a little proud of one of my guest’s compliments this last weekend.  It wasn’t about the straw bale garden.  She said she admired the “biodiversity” of our yard.  I find it notable that we are the only ones on the block with such, and will provide pictures presently.  Here they are, and just look at all those nasty broad leafed “weeds”–violets in the first one.

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The last photo with the pot needs a bit of explanation.   The middle photo shows white clover in the yard.  The last photo is white clover planted as a cover crop in a chipped out stump hole.  (Left from one of the large trees we lost last year.)  The theory here is that regular grass would not grow well.  The wood chip basin is going to suck up a lot of nitrogen as it decomposes.  Clover is a nitrogen fixer and will be able to grow where we would battle with grass.  Seems to be working. . .


The photo above is to point out that without the use of any herbicides, just organic lawn fertilizer (we use Ringer which is a blood meal base), our yard is if anything one of the better in the neighborhood–most of which is sprayed and treated to an alarming degree.

We have been influenced by the writing of Masanobu Fukuoka who believed strongly in cover crops and the addition of no chemical elements in his garden.