Author Archive | Casey O'Leary

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The Idaho Pea Artist: Patient Work Breeds Big Results

Photo by Rod Lamborn.

Photo by Rod Lamborn.

Imagine a spring garden without Sugar Snap peas. If you were born before 1979, this shouldn’t be too hard, since they didn’t exist. Instead, farm kids would pick shelling peas and chew on the slightly sweet pods like gum before spitting out the fibrous mass and snagging another to make a canoe for floating down the irrigation ditch.

Dr. Calvin Lamborn was one such kid. Upon graduating from college, he was hired in 1968 by Bill Albers at Gallatin Valley Seed company in Twin Falls. One of his early tasks as a plant breeder was to find a way to straighten the distorted pods of the snow peas his company was working on.… Read More

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Farm to Market: Homestead renaissance along a mountain road

Photo by Casey O'Leary.

Photo by Casey O’Leary.

The small mountain town of McCall boasts a twice-per-week farmers market, something even the relative metropolis of Boise hasn’t been able to sustain. “The locals come on Wednesdays and the tourists come on Saturdays,” said Patsy Kelley, who’s been selling there for 25 years.

Perusing the tented smorgasbord, set against the stunning backdrop of Payette Lake, savvy shoppers will notice that most of the vendors hail from towns like Riggins and Sweet, while only a handful actually farm in McCall proper—the 5,000-foot-high Zone 3 tourist mecca that constitutes one of Idaho’s most challenging growing climates. McCall routinely gets at least one frost in every month of the year, and the ample wildlife that titillate tourists pose real threats to crops.… Read More

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How Does Your Garden Grow? Spring planting advice from a local farmer

Illustration by Felicia Weston.

Illustration by Felicia Weston.

For gardeners old and new, the first sunny days of spring incite an industrious fervor that can border on insanity. If ever there was a way to bite off more than you can chew, it’s planting a garden after a long winter’s amnesia. Weeds? What are those? Canning? It’s heaven on Earth!

So before you rip up half your lawn and start buying seeds, and your paychecks begin to disappear into mountains of plant starts and bags of compost, keep these tips in mind to help your garden grow.

What to Grow:

Grow what you like to eat.… Read More

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Mold and Fruit Flies: A Canning Romance

Laughing tomatoesThey’re staring at me. Precarious piles of overripe red fruits oozing rivulets of juice across the counter, pooling at the edge until they reach a critical mass and the river becomes a waterfall, plummeting over the edge onto the kitchen floor.

It’s hot. Damn hot. And instead of lounging in the shade of a tree, I’m still in this damn kitchen, sweating over the steam bath of large canning pots. Oh why does it take five friggin’ hours to reduce tomatoes to a consistency that allows you to avoid just canning quarts of tomato-infused water? I schlep a flat of too-far-gone Brandywine out to the chickens amid a veritable house party of fruit flies and slop it over the fence, where it splatters flesh over my shins.… Read More

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