It's that time of year when I start chattering about my garden on a a regular basis. :) 

On Saturday as part of the Year of Idaho Food there was a seed exchange at the local Basque cultural center.  I went to a similar event last year at the farmer's market and got some fantastic seeds, some of which I tried and some of which I saved for this year's planting.  This year I brought mostly squash seeds to share, including my new favorite plant Kabocha.  It's a Japanese winter squash that is best after it's been stored for several months.  It's like a new and improved pumpkin that is perfect around Thanksgiving/Christmas and makes fantastic pies (among other things).  Its flesh is more orange, creamier, and sweeter than pumpkin, and the fruit is pretty and kind of stripey.  The best thing I brought home (along with lots of flowers and local varieties of beans, lettuce, cukes, squash, etc) was a full dried choircero pepper.  Choriceros are used to give chorizo sausage its unique flavor, and they're not easy to get your hands on.  The choriceros grown in Boise are mostly descended from the seeds one man brought over from the Basque country about a hundred years ago and they've been cultivated and shared since, probably leading to our own local variety.  The pepper smelled so good, so sweet and smoky, that I'm definitely going to cook with the flesh after I remove the seeds.  I love Idaho.

It's been unseasonably warm lately so I took the time to get out in the garden and prune our grape vines.  One vine is probably as old as the house (built in 1930) and it's fairly subdued.  The other is newer and a different variety (both are seedless white grapes) with almost a piney taste to the fruit.  It's very aggressive and had managed to climb at least 12 feet up into a nearby tree since I pruned it last spring.  I chopped it back fairly hard as it's so leafy and viney that the fruit hardly gets any sun.  A lady who met Arlen on craigslist last summer and came over to talk urban farming and to look at a freezer we were selling got to try some of our raisins from the older vine.  Apparently they were so good that she came over to beg cuttings this weekend to plant herself!  Luckily it was just after I'd pruned so we loaded her up with as much as she'd take.  Nice to share the love.

I also pruned the raspberry canes and the rose bushes and had fun pulling out the dead stuff from last year and checking out what's coming back to life.  The strawberries, herbs, and perennial flowers are all showing signs of life.  This will only be the second season for my garden (before that it was weedy yard) and the battle with weeds and grass is neverending.  The whole plot needs to be hoed/rototilled/weed blanketed/lasagna gardened but probably I will just dig out the spots as I plant them and try to remove anything that isn't what I'm trying to grow.  Hard since I've already planted so many perennials.  I guess the first thing I need to do is chuck all the chickens in there to do a good clean-up.  They are loving the mild weather and scratching around the base of the fences, trees, and walls when we let them out to graze.  I know they'd do lovely work in the garden.
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