Planning the 2018 Garden

I’ve got a pretty good start on my growout list for 2018. I get a lot of great ideas by reading about my fellow garden bloggers growing experiences and getting their feedback on varieties they are growing. I also get ideas from reading books, and last year I read The Tao of Vegetable Gardening: Cultivating Tomatoes, Greens, Peas, Beans, Squash, Joy, and Serenity by Carol Deppe. That has led me to want to try a few blight-resistant tomatoes in my garden this year. So far I have escaped major disease issues with my tomatoes, but I fear the blights are coming here eventually. Defiant, Mountain Merit and Rugged Boy are slicing types with good blight resistance, and Jasper is a blight-resistant cherry tomato. I may not grow all of these this year, but they are on my list for trials. And I want to try one of the Brandywine tomatoes here, perhaps Brandywine Black since they seem to do well for Phuong (Kentucky Fried Garden) whose growing conditions are very similar to ours. I also want to try the small-fruited Honeydrop, which is an o/p selection from the F1 hybrid SunSugar. And Sweet Aperitif is a red cherry tomato that is supposed to be even sweeter than Sun Gold, which is my gold standard for sweet tasting tomatoes.

Other ideas come from my own growing and eating experiences. I’m always on the lookup for new varieties of peppers to grow. Last year I grew the 2017 AAS Winner Mad Hatter, which is a hybrid baccatum type, but since I got it planted rather late I didn’t get any ripe fruit. It was loaded with green peppers so I have high hopes for this year. I also want to try the Hawaiian Sweet Hot and Korean Winner peppers. I tried a few of the Heirloom Marriage tomatoes (Cherokee Carbon, Genuwine and Big Brandy) last year and was not reallty that impressed. These are hybrids created by crossing two different heirloom tomatoes. But this year I want to try Perfect Flame, which is a cross of Peron and Jaune Flamme. And I’m looking forward to growing more of the Artisan Seeds unreleased test varieties of tomatoes. The baby beefsteak I grew last year is back again, and it was a real standout for me here. I also plan to try their named and announced varieties Green Bee, Madera and Bellota.

baby beefsteak tomatoes

baby beefsteak tomatoes

As usual, I plan to grow a lot of different squashes, both summer and winter kinds. I found several winter squash to trial, including a couple of kabocha types. Last year I grew the Japanese hybrid Tetsukabuto and it not only did well but we enjoy eating it too. So this year I want to try Sweet Mama, which is a 1979 AAS Winner with a compact habit that I don’t recall ever growing. And Delica is a kabocha type with full vines I hope to trellis. For summer squash I plan to grow my old standbys too like White Scallop, Enterprise and Striata d’Italia plus new favorites like Sunstripe, Clarimore and Astia.

Last year we fell in love with the heirloom beans from the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center Inc. I want to try a couple of new-to-me varieties called Turkey Craw and Headrick Greasy Cut-Short. Something that goes well with the cooked beans are the Yellow Potato onions, a multiplier type I already have planted. These were very productive for me last year, and while the onions aren’t very big they are perfect for many dishes and keep quite well.

Yellow Potato Onions

Yellow Potato Onions

Since I love to experiment with growing new things, so my growing list is always long. And there are always last-minute changes to my list. I will work on getting my seed orders together in the coming weeks.

Varieties I am growing for the first time are marked with an *.

Asian Greens: Asian Delight Pak Choi*,Bopak pac choi, Koji tatsoi, Kyoto mizuna, Miz America mizuna, Mizspoona Salad Select, Mei Qing Pak Choi, Red Kingdom mustard, Vivid Choi

Basil: Amethyst, Aurelia*,Corsican, Italian Pesto, Italiano Classico, Profuma di Genova, Queenette Thai, Rosie, Sweet Thai

Beans (bush): Derby

Beans (pole):  Bertie Best’s Greasy Bean, Blauhilde*, Fortex, Gold Marie, Headrick Greasy Cut-Short*, Musica, Robe Mountain, NT Half Runner, Trionfo Violetto, Turkey Craw*

Broccoli: Apollo, Artwork, Bay Meadows, Blue Wind, Diplomat, Green Magic, Gypsy, Imperial, Santee (PSB)

Cabbage: Cuor di Bue Grosso*, Conehead*, Deadon, Kaitlin, Little Jade (napa), Melissa Savoy, Minuet (napa), Pixie, Primo Vantage, Scarlette (napa), Soloist (napa), Tendersweet, Tiara

Collards: White Mountain Cabbage Collards, Jernigan Yellow Cabbage Collards

Cucumber: Corinto, Excelsior, Harmonie,Manny, Socrates, Tasty Jade, Vertina

Eggplant: Dancer, Fairy Tale, Galine, Nadia, Nubia*, Patio Baby

Garlic: Early Portuguese*, German Red, Godfather’s Italian, Idaho Silver, K’s Backyard*, Killarney Red, Lorz Italian, Moroccan Creole*, Nootka Rose, Red Janice, Red Toch, Russian Red, Sicilian Silver*, Siciliano, Silver White, Simonetti, Uzbek, Xian

Greens: Adagio arugula, Apollo arugula, Esmee Arugula*, Golden Corn Salad, Pink Lettucy Mustard*, Speedy arugula, Vibrant Joy mustard*

Kale: Darkibor, Dazzling Blue, Prizm, Red Ursa, Simone Broadleaf*, True Siberian, Tronchuda Beira, Western Front, White Russian, Wild Garden Mix

Kohlrabi: Kolibri, Konan, Kossak, Quickstar

Lettuce: 21st Century Fire, Anuenue, Australian Yellow, Bambi, Big Island, Cardinale, Elf Ears, Jester,  Kilauea*, Lava Lamp, Manoa, Mayan Jaguar*, Pandero, Pele, Radichetta, Red Evolution, Red Sails, Red-Tinged Winter, Rosaine, Salad Bowl, Sierra, Simpson Elite, Slobolt, Slogun, Tall Oaks, Tango, Wavy Dory Romaine*

Melon: Gingaku, Mouse Melon/Mexican Sour Gherkin, New Mexico*

Onion: Candy, Copra, I’itoi, Red Torpedo Tropea, Sierra Blanca, Yellow Potato

Parsley: Georgian Flatleaf, Giant From Italy, Hungarian Landrace, Splendid

Peas: Avalanche, Oregon Sugar Pod 2, Petite Snap-Greens*,Sugar Ann

Pepper(hot): Aji Angelo, Aji Golden, Aji Panca, Aji Pena*, Anaheim, Bastan, Biggie Chili, Cayenneta, Emerald Fire, Farmers Market Jalapeno, Flaming Flare, Georgia Flame*, Guajillo, Hawaiian Sweet Hot*, Hot Happy Yummy, Holy Mole, Kaleidoscope, Korean Hot, Korean Winner*, Lady Choi, Malawi Piquante, Minero, Mosquetero, Pepperoncini, Roulette*, Senorita Jalapeno, Sugar Rush Peach*, Sugar Rush Red*

Pepper (sweet): Carmen, Cornito Giallo, Cornito Rosso, Criolla De Cocina*, Dulce Rojo, Escamillo, Glow, Hungarian Magyar, Jimmy Nardello’s, Nora, Numex Garnet, Numex Sweet, Orange Blaze, Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes (aka P.A.S.S.)*, Pritavit, Sweet Happy Yummy, Topepo Rosso

Pumpkin: Dickinson, Winter Luxury*

Radish: Alpine, April Cross, Bora King, Summer Cross #3, Sweet Baby

Shallots: Conservor, Dutch Yellow

Spinach: Gigante Inverno (Giant Winter), Space

Squash(summer): Astia, Clarimore, Enterprise, Flaminio, Raven, Spineless Beauty, Sunstripe, Striato d’Italia, Tatume, Tempest*, White Scallop

Squash(winter): Angel Hair, Candy Roaster, Delica*, Fairy*, Honeyboat Delicata, Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, Rancho Marques*, Seminole, Sweet Mama*, Tahitian Melon, Tetsukabuto, Thelma Sanders, Tromba d’Albenga, Turkeyneck, Zeppelin Delicata

Sweet Potatoes: Beauregard, Bonita, Carolina Ruby*, Gingseng*, Korean Purple, Murasaki*, O’Henry*, Purple, Red Japanese, Redmar

Tomatoes: Bellota*, Better Boy, Black Cherry,Brandywine, Brandywine Black*, Captain Lucky, Celebrity, Champagne, Chef’s Choice Orange, Chef’s Choice Pink, Chef’s Choice Red*, Chef’s Choice Yellow, Cherokee Carbon, Cherokee Purple, Defiant*, Garden Treasure, Golden Rave, Green Bee*, Health Kick, Honeydrop*, Jasper*, Juliet, Kiss The Sky*, Madera*, Marzano Fire, Mexico Midget, Mountain Merit*, Perfect Flame*, Plum Regal*, Rugged Boy*, Solar Flare*, Sun Gold, Sunpeach, Sun Sugar, Sweet Aperitif*, Vinson Watts, Viva Italia

Turnips: Hakurei, Nozawana, Scarlet Ohno Revival, Scarlet Queen Red Stems, Topper

Posted in Gardening | 16 Comments

2018 All-America Selections Winners

The lineup of 2018 AAS Winners has been announced, and in the edibles category it includes seven national winners and two regional winners. For those who might not be familiar with it, All-America Selections (AAS) is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties of flowers and edibles in trial grounds all over the U.S. and Canada. The AAS Winners give gardeners a chance to grow varieties that have proven themselves to perform well when compared to existing cultivars, and usually offer superior flavor, disease resistance and growth habits. For me, it is wonderful to be able to cut through the hype that is often present in seed catalogs and get varieties that have been impartially judged. I grow several AAS Winners in my garden every year, and I always look forward to trying the new winners here at Happy Acres.

American Dream sweet corn, Onyx Red ornamental pepper and Red Racer cocktail tomato were announced as AAS Winners last June. I had the opportunity to grow Red Racer last year as a trial. Harris Seeds and Garden Trends Wholesale were promoting this variety, and made transplants available for garden communicators and the media to try out. I set out my three plants in mid-July and got the first ripe tomatoes in early September. The two ounce fruits form in clusters and the plants were loaded with lots of tomatoes that had a balanced sweet/acid taste and were great on salads.

Red Racer cocktail tomatoes

Red Racer cocktail tomatoes

The latest Winners were announced in November and include six in the edibles category. Asian Delight hybrid pak choi forms small to mid-sized heads with white stems and dark green leaves. The plants have good bolt resistance, and compared favorably with Toy Choi in trials. Heads can be harvested at the baby stage 25 days after setting out, and full-sized ones are ready in 40 days.

Pak Choi Asian Delight

Pak Choi Asian Delight

Red Ember is a hybrid cayenne pepper with medium sized plants and fruits that mature to the red ripe stage 75 days after setting out. Red Ember was bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds by crossing a cayenne pepper with a sweet pepper, and is good for fresh uses as well as for drying. The fruits have thick walls and moderately warm heat compared to other cayenne types. It is suitable for container growing as well as in-ground plantings.

Red Ember cayenne pepper

Red Ember cayenne pepper

Valentine tomato is a hybrid grape tomato with sweet crack-resistant fruits that mature in 55 days. The indeterminate vines should be staked or caged for best results. This is another variety that was bred by Johnny’s, and you can read more about it and the Red Ember pepper in this article on their website. It was a favorite of judges in the trials, and one judge noted “the fruit was attractive, early, good tasting and uniform” while another  stated it “takes the stress of late summer and keeps producing.”

Tomato Valentine

Tomato Valentine

Roulette is a hybrid pepper that resembles a habanero in every way except one – it has no heat! The red ripe fruits have a citrusy habanero flavor and each plant produces up to 100 peppers over the course of the growing season. The vigorous Capsicum chinense plants can reach 3.5 feet in height, and one judge wrote “this entry has a beautiful bush type and sturdy plant type perfect for container gardening.”

Habanero Pepper Roulette

Habanero Pepper Roulette

Mexican Sunrise is a hybrid Hungarian type pepper with fruit that goes from lime green to yellow then onto orange and red as it matures. The thick-walled peppers are medium hot, and can be used for pickling as well as fresh dishes. The plants are compact, reaching just under two feet, and are suitable for container growing.

Hungarian Pepper Mexican Sunrise

Hungarian Pepper Mexican Sunrise

Chef’s Choice Red hybrid tomato is the fifth addition to the popular Chef’s Choice tomato series. Chef’s Choice Red produces globe shaped beefsteak tomatoes that ripen 80 days after setting out. The 8-ounce fruits are produced on strong indeterminate vines, and have nice acid to sugar balance flavors that are similar to heirloom tomatoes.

Tomato Chef's Choice Red

Tomato Chef’s Choice Red

I also want to mention a few of the seed grown ornamentals that were 2018 Winners. South Pacific Orange is a canna with a compact habit that is grown from seed rather than tubers. The bloom color is a vivid bright orange, which contrasts nicely with the green foliage. The blooms also attract pollinators, which is an added bonus.

South Pacific Orange canna

South Pacific Orange canna

Super Hero Spry is a compact French Marigold with dark maroon lower petals and golden yellow upper petals. The plants are early to bloom and require no deadheading.

Super Hero Spry marigold

Super Hero Spry marigold

And Queeny Lime Orange Zinnia has large, dahlia-like blooms on sturdy compact plants that reach 1.5 to 2 feet in height. The color evolves as the blooms grow, and judges described it as “a showstopper” in the trial gardens. It’s also attractive to pollinators, and makes a long-lasting cut flower.

Zinnia Queeny Lime Orange

Zinnia Queeny Lime Orange

I hope you have enjoyed this review of the 2018 AAS vegetables winners. I’m looking forward to growing several of them in our gardens this year. For a full list of both present and past winners, visit All-America Selections Winners. Their website also has information on where to Buy AAS Winners.

For more information about AAS Winners check out:

  1. Growing the 2016 AAS Winners
  2. The 2017 AAS Winners
  3. My Favorite AAS Veggies

All photos except the Red Racer tomatoes are courtesy of All-America Selections.

 

Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

Stars of the Garden in 2017

It’s time for my annual review of what did well in the garden, and what didn’t. In my 2016 review I called it The Year of the Pepper, since I harvested over 75 pounds of them. In 2017 the peppers struggled, after all my seedlings were attacked by aphids and I was late getting the plants out. It was a banner year for cucurbits though as I harvested 26 pounds of cucumbers, 134 pounds of summer squash and 232 pounds of winter squash. And it was a great year for tomatoes as well, with the garden giving us 217 pounds of them. But I  believe the best crop of all came from the sweet potatoes, which produced 170 pounds. So I will call 2017 the Year of the Sweet Potato.

Korean Purple sweet potatoes

Korean Purple sweet potatoes

Last month, I did a complete review of all the sweet potatoes we grew, so I won’t cover all of that again. We have been enjoying the sweet potatoes every way we know how to prepare them, and we have been sharing with friends. One of my new favorites is one called Korean Purple, which has purple skin and a fairly dry white flesh. It was the second best yielding variety of the ones I grew, behind the orange-fleshed Beauregard which was the most productive.

trio of Tromba d'Albenga squash

trio of Tromba d’Albenga squash

The summer squash totals were aided by the very productive Tromba d’Albenga which is technically a winter squash, but usually harvested in the immature green stage and used like a summer squash. It accounted for about 70 pounds of the total of the summer squash harvest. In addition to using lots of it fresh I also dried and froze quite a bit of it for later use.

medley of summer squashes

medley of summer squashes

The Sunstripe yellow zucchini was a standout last year, along with the light green Middle Eastern zucchini Clarimore. In the above photo we also have the yellow straightneck Enterprise, White Scallop pattypan, and Striata d’Italia zucchini. All did well here and will likely be back again in 2018.

Dickinson, Tetsukabuto and Thelma Sanders winter squashes

Dickinson, Tetsukabuto and Thelma Sanders winter squashes

Several of the winter squashes were standouts, including the Dickinson pumpkin and the Tetsukabuto squash. Dickinson made almost 70 pounds of pumpkins, while Tetsukabuto produced 40 pounds of mature fruit. Both have proven to be quite useful in the kitchen, and I plan on growing both of them again in 2018.  The Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato squash wasn’t quite as productive but it was very tasty, and the vines made 5 squash that weighed just under 8 pounds. I plan on growing it again too. The 2017 AAS Winner Sugaretti is a spaghetti squash that did quite well too, as did the Honeybaby butternut which was also a 2017 AAS Winner. And the hybrid neck pumpkin Turkeyneck gave us several fruits with sweet and flavorful flesh. I was disappointed in the Bush Delicata and Honey Boat Delicata squashes, as they were shy producers of bland tasting squashes. Both usually make tasty squashes here, so I’m not sure what the problem was.

Vertina, Excelsior and Harmonie cucumbers

Vertina, Excelsior and Harmonie cucumbers

The cucumbers also did well last year. I only grew them in the greenhouse, and didn’t plant any outside. In addition to slicers I’ve grown before like Corinto and Tasty Jade, I also grew several pickling types including Excelsior, Vertina and Harmonie. Both types did quite well, keeping us supplied with over 25 pounds of  cukes for fresh eating and for pickling.

Bertie Best Greasy Beans

Bertie Best Greasy Beans

It was a great year for beans here too. I grew all snap beans, mostly vining types but I also grew a short row of the bush bean Derby. Fortex, Musica, Gold Marie and Rattlesnake all did well, but the standouts in the kitchen were the Appalachian heirloom beans including Bertie Best’s Greasy, Non-Tough Half Runner and Robe Mountain. These three are best when harvested after the beans start filling out. I tried Early Riser and while it made tasty beans, it ripened the same time as Trionfo Violetto so it didn’t add a lot of earliness to the mix. Withner’s White Cornfield bean did reasonably well, but I don’t think it was an improvement over other flat-podded types like Musica and Gold Marie.

Derby snap beans

Derby snap beans

I know there are lots of different bush snap beans out there, but I have been growing Derby pretty much ever since it was introduced. It was a 1990 AAS Winner, and it never fails to produce well for me. The round, straight pods are tender and as we found out last year perfect for roasting in the oven, which is our new favorite way to eat them.

Konan and Kolibri kohlrabi

Konan and Kolibri kohlrabi

We love kohlrabi here at Happy Acres, and I planted quite a bit of it last year. Kolibri, Kossak and Konan all did well, and gave us over 80 pounds of kohlrabies which we enjoyed raw, roasted and fermented.

Cornito Giallo and Cornito Rosso peppers

Cornito Giallo and Cornito Rosso peppers

It was not my best year for peppers, following an aphid attack on my seedlings that set them back for a few weeks. That made me late getting the plants out, and many had to be replanted. Still we got 46 pounds of peppers, more hot ones than sweet. Cornito Rosso and Cornito Giallo are two of my new favorite sweet peppers. They are great for roasting and grilling as well as for fresh use. I didn’t have enough to dry but there’s always next year!

Malawi Piquante, Aji Golden and Kaleidoscope.

baccatum peppers Malawi Piquante, Aji Golden and Kaleidoscope.

Notable hot peppers included the o/p Guajillos and the hybrid version called Minero. The Anaheim type Biggie Chili always does well for me, giving me lots of fruit for roasting, smoking and drying. And the baccatum types Aji Golden, Aji Angelo, Kaleidoscope and Malawi Piquante also did well. I think Guajillo and Minero make a mildly hot and very flavorful chile powder, so I dried all of them for that use.

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Tomatoes are a favorite in most backyard gardens, and it was a great year for them here. The indigo type Midnight Snack cherry tomato (a 2017 AAS Winner) was a standout here for salads and snacking. The plants kept producing until frost got them, and the tomatoes have a unique and savory flavor my wife and I both enjoyed. Snow White and Champagne Cherry are great tasting white tomatoes, and I snacked on many of them while outside working in the garden.

Sunpeach tomatoes

Sunpeach tomatoes

Sunpeach cherry tomato is a sister variety to Sun Gold and did quite well for me last year. This was one recommended to me by a local market grower, who was using it for his veggie CSA program. The fruits form on long trusses and it didn’t seem to have the splitting problems so common with Sun Gold. It was great for eating fresh and for drying, and I plan on growing it again next year.

sliced Captain Lucky

sliced Captain Lucky

One of our favorite slicing tomatoes is called Captain Lucky, and this open-pollinated variety was the star of many sandwiches in 2017. The green-when-ripe tomatoes are colored with green, pink and yellow inside and very meaty with few seeds.

Juliet, Stripey Marzano and Rutgers 250 tomatoes

Juliet, Stripey Marzano and Rutgers 250 tomatoes

For processing I rely on semi-determinate paste tomatoes and this year I planted Viva Italia and Health Kick which both did well. I also grew my all-time favorite tomato Juliet, which always gives us abundant harvests of fruit for drying, roasting, processing and using fresh. Marzano Fire did well too, but Rutgers 250 and Marzinera were not very productive for me. Golden Rave always does well for me, and the yellow paste tomatoes make a nice addition to the mix.

Asparagus Mimosa

Asparagus Mimosa

Every spring we eagerly wait for the first asparagus spears to emerge. In 2017 we cut the first spears on Mar 20th, and the total harvest for the year was 24 pounds. One of our favorite ways to eat it is a treatment called Asparagus Mimosa. We make it using a recipe from the cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. This recipe adds capers to the classic but simple dish featuring lightly cooked asparagus topped with chopped hard boiled egg then sprinkled with coarse sea salt and drizzled with some good olive oil. I also did a quick ferment on a few which turned out quite well too, adding another level of flavor to the crunchy spears.

Gypsy broccoli

Gypsy broccoli

The spring planted brassicas did quite well, though I got the fall planting out later than usual and many of the plants never reached their full potential. The spring broccoli was some of the best I’ve grown, with Gypsy being a standout in terms of size.

White Russian kale

White Russian kale

Kale always does well for me, and White Russian is one of my favorites for flavor and productivity. It is a selection from the Wild Garden Kale Mix, which also produced Red Ursa. I grew all three of these this fall, and they’re all quite tasty especially after they have been kissed by a couple of frosts or freezes.

Prizm kale

Prizm kale

Prizm (a 2016 AAS Winner) is a compact hybrid curly kale that also does well here in both spring and fall plantings. The short plants make them a good choice for growing under cover, and I have some overwintering in one of the cold frame beds.

Splendid parsley

Splendid parsley

I don’t always mention the herbs we grow and harvest here, but they are important and much used all the same. Parsley is one of my favorite herbs, and I plant mostly flat-leaved Italian types like Splendid (from Wild Garden Seeds). It overwinters quite well in my greenhouse.

Corsican basil

Corsican basil

And I grow quite a bit of basil here every year. Corsican is a Mediterranean heirloom type that makes plants of varying shades of green and purple. I think it has a better flavor than other purple leaf basils I have grown in the past, less ‘spicy’ than Dark Opal or Amethyst, and the plants are vigorous as well. My other favorites include Profumo di Genova, Italian Pesto and Sweet Thai.

I hope you have enjoyed this review of some of the veggies and herbs we grew here in 2017. And I hope 2018 is a great year for all of you out there! I’ll be back soon with more adventures from HA.

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A New Year, A New Kitchen

The kitchen is the nerve center of many homes, and ours at Happy Acres is certainly so. We have just begun a makeover project that should bring some much-needed improvements, though it’s going to be painful for a bit. The big pieces of the project will be replacing the floor and the countertops. The floor is a white ceramic tile that is unforgiving on the feet and anything you drop on it. It’s also cracked in quite a few places. We’re replacing it with Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) flooring that will be easier on the feet as well as easier to clean. Since yours truly is in charge of kitchen floor cleanup, it will be much appreciated!

cracked floor

cracked floor

The current counters are a laminate that were old and stained when we moved in 10 years ago, and are that much older now. We are replacing those with a quartz material, which will be much improved compared to what we have now. Bread making should be easier for one thing, and I am looking forward to actually working on the counter without fear of food touching it.

cabinet makeover

cabinet makeover

As part of the project, three of the kitchen cabinets need a bit of re-working. Two will be made smaller, while one will be enlarged. Since the microwave was hanging from one of them, it is now out in the garage. When it comes time to work on the flooring, the stove and refrigerator will have to go in the dining room. That will make cooking and eating fun for sure! Many of our cooking ingredients are now in boxes in the dining room, which has already made cooking an adventure.

there used to be a cabinet there

there used to be a cabinet there

Stay tuned, and hopefully sometime next month the project will be done and we will have a functional, somewhat more modern kitchen! Meanwhile, has anyone seen the curry powder?

Posted in Life | Tagged | 7 Comments