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Staggerweed Mountain

March 10, 2008

Here is a sign of spring in our area, Delphinium Trollifolium locally known as Staggerweed, or poisonous larkspur.  This plant is really the only poisonous plant that grows near here that the cattle have no aversion to.  It is one of the first green things in the spring and is readily grazed by cattle.  Horses and sheep are more immune to its alkaloid properties.  Many different types of larkspur are common in grazing areas in the western United States, most if not all are poisonous.

  Early pioneer account of settling in the area that rapidly became known as Staggerweed Mountain…I remember one evening we went down to the corral to milk the cows.  We found them staggering and pitching around like drunken sailors…Father ran to the cabin to get the coal oil, mother to get hot lard and eggs and we kids were to get long-necked bottles…How we worked to save the lives of our precious herd.  A cow was as good as gone if she once got down, and we kids had to keep them on the move with sticks and shouts.  Next morning, eight of our herd were stretched out in death.  Pioneer history, Multnomah County, Oregon.

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This week it seems with the warmer temperatures, our food stores are moving on to the next stage.  Storage onions are getting softer and sprouting.  I planted a 2 gallon pot of sprouters for green onions.  We’re down to 7 Sweet Meat squash, with several of those getting soft spots around the stems.  Usually in the fall, I cure them on the living room floor, but this year with a puppy who was mostly teeth – I decided not to risk all our squash.  He seemed magnetized to the stems, and the squash store longer with their stems.  So I tried curing 1/4 of our crop in the unheated greenhouse, 1/4 in the basement and the remaining 1/2 in the living room.  We always move them upstairs after they are cured.  Next year…back to the old plan, cure in a warm room, move to upstairs where it is cool but lower humidity.  On my seed saving quest, I’m saving seed from the squash that stores the longest and still tastes good.  We could hardly keep up with the greenhouse and basement stored ones.  Our basement still has a dirt floor in one third of the area and the rest is concrete, so the humidity is usually pretty high.  Next year…

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This weeks root harvest for the house and the milk cow. 

 The carrots and parsnips are still really firm and just barely showing signs of root hairs, if the daytime temps stay up,  they will want to start putting up seed stalks.  The rutabagas are also in good shape and just starting to sprout leaves.  The beets are a huge disappointment!  Last year, I threw out the last of my old Lutz beet seed, some was seed I had saved and some was from 2001.  I had two 8 oz packs for Fedco, one from 2005 and one from 2006.  I planted from these and soon as they came up, I knew they were not Lutz.  I quickly ordered new seed from Fedco and replanted.  These were not Lutz either!  The 2008 catalog explains what happened in the seed world, but that doesn’t do me any good.  LESSON LEARNED!!  I have been getting lax, not saving seed when I should.  The seed bank in the Arctic isn’t going to help me, I NEED to quit being so lazy.  It’s so fun to order seeds, but I depend on these beets to get us through the winter.  So party is over.  I ordered my beet seed from  Turtletree Seeds  so I hope their seed is true.  The beets are all over the map size-wise.  The largest ones are half rotten, the medium ones all seem to be bitter and the tiny baby beet size are pretty good.  So we have been making beet kvass out of the good parts of the larger ones, the chickens are getting the bitter ones and we are eating baby beets that were planted last June!  Next year…

Northern Spy apples            ( Would someone please clean off that table!)

These kept the best on the northside of our porch.  They were packed as picked and kept in clean apple boxes.  I covered the boxes with towels and they have been on the porch ever since.  The lowest temperature we recorded this winter was 12 degrees.  We only had temps that low for a week,  the rest of the time high teens and twenties were the norm.  Ironically, the two boxes in the fridge are more dried out and have an odd taste.  This is our only frost-free fridge, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the dryness.  So I guess I will opt for the low tech storage for all the apples Next year…

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 Melvin, my baking buddy!  He thinks I’m taking too many pictures of Trace.
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The apples are a little bitter, but were fine for birthday pie for hubbys birthday.  Unfortunately, it’s been too warm to bake in the woodstove, I’m saving wood for Next year…

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Greens for dinner                         (I see the table is still not cleared off)

These don’t look too bad, they have some holes and frost bitten areas, but they still are tender.  We like them braised with garlic, onion, chicken broth and dressed with balsamic vinegar.  My kid will eat a huge bowl of these.  The greens I remember as a kid were boiled to death, (at school and home) and served with vinegar.  I never ate greens if I could avoid them.  All in presentation I guess…

So we are eating pretty good, with a fair balance of fresh food.  But the lettuce starts in the greenhouse are starting to look pretty good.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2008 3:27 pm

    I am so impressed by your food preservation….my apples expired a couple weeks ago. I had some spies too, but I couldn’t get them from the orchard we usually patronize as they ran out and these were just not as good to begin with.
    Great looking dogs too!

  2. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    March 11, 2008 6:21 pm

    three collie – Our climate makes it easy to preserve and grow more food, since it is not as cold here. Sometimes, it is actually more work to go through the stockpiles and look for spoilage than it is to grow and harvest. An oldtimer once told me with a laugh, “I spent my whole childhood eating rotten apples!” He grew up in the woods near Seattle during the Depression and said it was the kids job to go through their dugout (their name for the root cellar dug out of a bank) and bring to the house anything that had a bad spot. By the time spring came, everything they had eaten had gotten a bad spot! They never did eat anything that might keep. It didn’t hurt him a bit though, he lived to 96 years of age.

    As you can see our dogs are pretty spoiled – They are getting to be pretty good models.

  3. March 12, 2008 6:58 pm

    Wow! I’m with three collie in awe of your veggie storage abilities. Reading your post, I kept thinking “I’ve got to find out where these people are!”
    I’m happy to have found you, with a Rudolf Steiner quote right at the top and all. I’m going to spend some time checking out your site and relish the farmer to farmer contact. Cheers,
    Colleen Nyman

  4. March 12, 2008 9:18 pm

    Me again. I thought I’d mention that I liked your ‘Blogs I Follow’ list and have started something similar with yours at the top of the list.

  5. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    March 13, 2008 2:32 am

    Colleen, thank you! I like to read farming and vegetable gardening blogs from all areas. It’s fun to see the different
    techniques that everyone employs. I think people interested in these types of topics are independent thinkers and THAT is the most refreshing of all. I’ll add you to my blog roll. Best wishes on a great season of growing!

  6. January 28, 2009 1:34 pm

    Hi There,

    I came across your website while researching Staggerweed Mountain. I am into genealogy and family history and some of my ancestors who came from Missouri by wagon train to Oregon settled on Staggerweed Mountain between 1877-79. I am wondering exactly where Staggerweed is? I have an idea that it’s near Rooster Rock but I would like to know what street(s) are on the mountain? I live in Vancouver so I am fairly familiar with the area but I haven’t been able to find any maps with Staggerweed Mountain on it so I am hoping you can give me a better idea.
    My family that lived on Staggerweed was that of John and Martha Read and I know that they were friends of the Latourell family. If I remember the story right, Mrs. Latourell helped deliver two of John and Martha’s children.

    Thanks! 🙂
    Heather

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