Farmers', open, open

Yahoooo! Only a short week before most of the local farms and farmers' markets open. There has already been a myriad of flower farms and nurseries that have had shows, tours, and beginning-of-the-garden-season sales.
In a matter of days it will be time to stroll aisles loaded with colorful vegetables, flowers, local seafood and meats, honeys and jams. I envy the countries that take for granted their open markets for everyday shopping. Instead, we live out of superstores with processed food and under-ripe, over-geneticized produce. Ah; to grab a loaf of fresh bread, some specialty farm cheese and fresh fruit on the way home from work for whatever my taste has a whimsy for!
Well, we may not be able to do it daily, but most areas of our country have nearby farms that have opened their doors to the public so that we can enjoy their fresh, unique bounty any day of the season. is one of the best websites I have visitied in a while. Just plug in your zip code and what you are looking for (I entered "produce") and farms, farmers' markets and family-owned produce stands near your area will be listed, mapped out and described. Don't miss the photo section if you have time; it has great pictures of our farmers throughout the land. There is so much information on produce on the website that I'll be visiting it many times.
Our local "Beaverton Farmer's Market"
Cheese from a local dairy at the Beaverton Farmers Market
Asparagus is bountiful in the garden, so here is a delicious, simple recipe for a brunch or light dinner using some farmer's cheese and vegetables you can get at the local stand or from your own garden.
Asparugus Salad
Fresh asparugus (about 1 pound of spears)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
about 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or other specialty cheese that you enjoy
1/4 cup basil
pine nuts
Italian dressing (I just use olive oil, wine vinegar, salt & pepper)

Blanch the asparagus (see below.) Toss with the onions and dressing, then place on plates. Sprinkle basil, pine nuts and cheese over the top. For variety, add a few slices of sweet citrus, such as mandarins or blood oranges.
(To blanch the asparagus, add the spears to a large pot of boiling water. Cook about 3 minutes; just until asparagus is crisp-tender and bright green in color. Drain, then immediately add asparagus to bowl of ice water to cool and stop the cooking. When completely cooled, drain the asparagus and pat dry.)

Hope you get to enjoy a trip to a local farm soon!

In the Garden - Can I Plant, Yet?

Each day in April I watch the forecast intently. "Dare I plant my garden?"
I've learned the hard way not to be impatient with plants that enjoy warm feet and sun on their face. Too many Aprils have fooled me with stretches of warm spring weather, only to turn so windy and wet that baby plants drown or, at best, remain weak.
A few years ago I planted seedlings in April, then new plants right next to them in May. The May plants became vigorous, rapidly outgrowing their neighbors. As a thank you for planting them in warm soil, they also gave me more produce.
So, now I enjoy April spring days for what they are. I take the backroads to do errands, enjoying orchards filled with blossoms. I relish painting by the fireplace with the last fires of the season while rain blows on the windows. I treasure all of the bouquets of tulips and lilacs that fragrant the house with spring.
These I have loved since I was little:
Wood to build with or to whittle,
Wind in the grass and falling rain,
First leaves along an April lane;
Yellow flowers, cloudy weather,
Rivers deep, the smell of leather.
Fields newly plowed, young corn in rows,
Back-country roads, and cawing crows,
Stone walls with stiles going over,
Daisies, Queen Anne’s Lace and Clover,
Night tunes of crickets, frog songs too,
Starched cotton cloth, the color blue,
Bells that ring from white church steeple,
Friendly dogs and friendly people.
-Elizabeth Ellen Long-
Still, us diehard gardeners can't bring ourselves to stay indoors when April skies are blue. So, what can we do during April's fickle weather? Here are a few plants that can weather April storms and cool nights...
Leaf greens such as Kale, Collards, Lettuce and don't forget the Spinach.
Beets, Parsnips and Turnips.
Peas with or without edible pods
Swiss Chard (I love the rainbow colors)
Broccoli, Cauliflower and Cabbages.
Don't be impatient; these may take a while to sprout. But, they can all tolerate a light frost and even a small dusting of snow when they are young.
With getting rid of any weeds that may have sprouted, working compost into the soil and planting these spring crops, your muscles will be telling you that it is that gardening time of year once again!