Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Garden Blogger's Death Day September 2009

This is the time of the year that it is so easy to celebrate Death Day. Death is natural in autumn. The trees even celebrate it by putting on a beautiful show of their dying leaves. In Massachusetts, most of the trees haven't turned, but the hint of color is there. There is one tree however that always turns early. It is a glorious tree that I photographed while standing in my garden. I love seeing it as I rip out my plants. It reminds me that it is time for such things and not to be too sad about all the death surrounding me.

So I have all the expected death this time of year. I have dead squash plants. Most of the pods of dried beans have been picked and the plants have been removed. A few pods remain. Those plants slowly turn yellow. Their leaves fall to the ground.

The death that makes me sad is the death of my little seedlings. I sow very little this time of year. The slugs and other pests are voracious. A newly germinated seed doesn't have much of a chance. However I wanted some spinach and mache for the colder times of the year and in early spring.

The spinach I chitted in the house for two days and then planted out in the bed. I spaced them just like I did in the spring. I had rows 6" apart and seed in the row 3" apart. As you can see a lot of it didn't make it. What did is getting munched on by something. I have a row cover over it which helps, but many things are already in the soil and slugs laugh at row covers. So I have a sparse spinach bed. A little bit of death but not total destruction.

The Golden Corn Salad that I got from Michelle is another matter. I broadcast it in a small spot. I watered every day to keep the soil moist. As you can see I have a lot of seedlings, but these are dill seedlings. I have dill plants above this bed that are dropping tons of seed. They love the newly prepared bed and the daily watering. I don't know what a mache seedling looks like, but I don't have any mass of seed leaves except dill. Sigh. I think it will have to wait until spring for germination. If I treat it like I treat my dill, I'm sure I'll get it to self sow all over the place and next year I'll have fall seedlings. I just have to be patient.

If you wish to join GBDD head over and visit Kate at Gardening Without Skills who hosts this macabre celebration.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rain Glorious Rain

I know all of you south of me right now are thinking I'm crazy for my title. Y'all have been inundated with rain. Your gardens have been drowned over the last couple of weeks. Up here in New England we have had some lovely fall weather. Sunny, crisp, and definitely lacking in precipitation. For us humans it has been fun, but that garden hasn't been so happy about the situation.

Thankfully our patterns seem to have changed. We got a little rain on Saturday, but less than a half an inch. Last night we had a good storm (though I hear it was isolated) complete with wind and thunder. When I went out to check the pails, I had an inch of water in the bottom. I don't have any fancy rain gauges, but straight sided pails left upright in the garden do quite well. I just have to make sure they get emptied so the mosquitoes don't breed.

The plants seem so much happier than before. They waited two weeks for their rain, but finally got it. I did hand water some of the plants - the carrots and greens, but house water never makes the plants as happy as real rain.

I feel a little strange celebrating the rain after a year of too much rain. But the good part about last night's rain is that it is gone now. The sun is shining and it looks like another prefect autumn day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Harvest Monday - 28 September 2009

I might have been gone half of last week, but I don't think the garden cared. Not much is happening. The beans are almost finished. The only cucurbit still producing is the cucumber. I've been having lots of cucumber salads for lunch. They have been supplemented with tomatoes that were picked weeks ago and ripened on the counter. I add dill and some bunching onion and it is quite a tasty salad. I have lettuce that I should be picking, but I'm just not into it yet. I think I ate too much lettuce this spring and got tired of it.

The pineapple tomatillos have picked up. I think my chipmunk is eating other things too now. Before I had to pick them when they just started turning yellow or I wouldn't get any. Now I find totally ripe ones just lying on the ground the way it is meant to be. Maybe our acorns are more tasty. Sadly the plant is getting yellow too, so there is not much life left in it.

The big winner in the harvest tally is my onions. They were picked in August. I don't think I ever talked about them though I did take photos of the whole process. They were harvested and cured without any blogging fanfare - maybe because they were so small and forlorn. Most of them are 1 1/2"-2" in girth. I couldn't weigh them then because they weren't dried and the tops weren't all cut off until now. I mostly ignored them since they were down in the garage. I've used some. Whenever I brought one up I would weigh it and put in into the tally. Now they are all up in the kitchen pantry ready to be used. However I think they will sit there for a while longer. I've been using up my leek sized bunching onions this month. I still have more in the garden.

The raspberries are doing great. Before I had to pick them every day to make sure they wouldn't rot. The weather has been so dry recently that I can pick them every three days and I don't lose any berries at all. Even the wasps seem to have moved on. I might see one or two, but mostly they are gone and are leaving the berries to me. I eat them on my cereal every morning but still have some extra to freeze.

I've been trying to make up my mind what to do with Harvest Monday. I have three options:

1) Give it to someone else for November thru April. I did have a few offers. The best seemed to be from Robin who has a wonderful blog, but she doesn't have comments enabled. I think of Harvest Monday as a community thing and without comments something would be missing. She could do it every week and seems to have a reasonable sized garden. SP8 also offered, but his plot is a tiny, balcony garden. He might well have issues of not having harvests every week.

2) Keep it but don't write about my harvest since I won't have them. Maybe highlight and link to someone else's harvest post that I found the week before.

3) Keep it but do something based on our friend Ben's comment from last week. His comment was: "I wonder if maybe you could switch from harvest to purchase posts, tracking what and how much produce you buy at the store (and what you eat from home storage of your garden's bounty) until the garden's producing again? It would be kind of fascinating to compare the two." I could make it about how I use what I've stored up and what I've had to buy in the store to make up for it. This summer I have been shopping (mostly from the farmers' market) for corn, strawberries, apples, sweet peppers, ginger and one head of celery (which I froze). I've probably bought a lime or lemon or two also. Every fall I also buy winter squash and cabbage from the local farms.

I invite your comments about what you would like to happen. Personally I would really love to see the harvest posts from Australia and other southern regions over my winter. It inspires and gives ideas for the next year. Not to mention it warms up my cold, cold days. How I do it doesn't matter as much to me which is probably why I'm in such a quandary.

Anyway onto the tally.

  • Alliums 3.43
  • Beans 0.38 lbs
  • Berries 0.81 lbs
  • Broccoli 0.23 lbs
  • Cucurbits 0.63 lbs
  • Peppers 0.19 lbs
  • Tomatillo 0.38 lbs

Weekly total: 6.04 lbs
Weekly spent: $0
Yearly total: 190.03 lbs
Yearly earned: $653.38

If you would like to join in showing off your harvest, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below. It doesn't matter how big or small your harvest is. You don't have to count the pounds like I do. If you have had a harvest this last week, show us and join in!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Comes to the Garden

Mating walking sticks in the raspberries - sure sign of fall.

While I was out on vacation the equinox passed. Fall came to the garden without me. It was easy to spot up in New Hampshire. When we showed up at the inn there was very little color. By the time we left there were patches of red trees scattered in the forest. On my street not much has turned yet. I am getting a lot of leaves dropping on the lawn from my maple trees, but it is just stress. They have not turned yet. Since they are Norway Maples (sob) they turn late and only turn yellow, not the fiery colors that I love.

The falling leaves make my life harder and easier at the same time. Today I have to mow the lawn so I'll have a lot more trips to the compost pile. There are probably just enough leaves on my lawn to mix with the grass clippings. Composting will be as easy as dumping out the grass catcher and adding water. Usually I have to layer the grass clippings and leaves, making sure that the grass isn't too thick or it will mat down and rot instead of compost.

The back yard is an oak woods. The acorns have been bombing us for a couple of weeks now. I'm so happy to see them. Last year was the weird year without acorns. I was wondering if the acorns would be back this year. They are - with a vengeance.

Sadly the garden is starting to look like fall. The leaves are turning yellow on the cucumbers and beans.

I have large swaths of empty bed. In the foreground the potato bed is waiting for me to double dig it this fall. The middle empty area is where I ripped out most of the squash and beans. A few bean plants still have pods drying on the vine. As soon as the pods are all picked the vines get ripped out and composted. One by one they have disappeared. I still remember the jungle that was. I had to do the limbo to get under some of the beans and tomatoes. I had to hop over all the low lying branches sticking out into the paths. Now the paths are all an easy stroll.

I never know whether to be happy or sad in this season. The garden winds down, but the weather is fabulous. We have had sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s and 70s (15-25C). The weather and the colorful trees makes me want to smile. The fading garden makes me sad. Can a person be happy and wistful at the same time?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Carrot Companions

If you remember from way back in the spring, one of my goals this year was to try to do more companion planting. The hope was for a bigger yield in my garden. The Three Sisters Garden didn't work due to the bad weather. The corn just didn't grow and I had to rig up other supports for the beans. One bed however worked out better than my wildest expectations.

Twelve feet of one of my four foot wide beds was taken up by a combination of tomatoes, peppers, carrots, marigolds, and basil. Only the peppers and carrots are left. The rest were taken down when the tomatoes came down.

In the front of the bed were 12 hot pepper plants. They were given a total of one square foot each. The tomatoes were grown in the back of the bed and were given a 2'x2' area for six tomato plants. In between each tomato plant at the back edge of the bed, I alternated marigolds (my Ground Control Marigolds, for nematode control) and basil. Between the tomatoes and peppers were three rows of carrots each 4" apart. They were planted two weeks after the peppers and tomatoes went in.

All of the basil except for the one on the end of the row quickly died when the tomatoes got tall enough to shade them. Note to self: don't plant basil in the shade on the north side of the beds. Really I should know better anyway. The marigolds probably would have grown better in the sun, but they put up with the nasty treatment and did a great job of nematode control.

The tomatoes grew better than I've ever had tomatoes grow even with our cold wet June and less space than I've given them in the past. Usually I give them a 3'x2' spot. This year they had 50% less space to grow and grew twice as big. My peppers usually get to about 12-18". This year they are over 2' tall. So they are happy with the arrangement too.

I was worried how the carrots would turn out. They were quickly shaded by the peppers and tomatoes. The peppers and tomatoes quickly grew toward each other and entangled in spots. I kept cutting them back to try to keep a little light down there, but I wasn't very successful. So they grew slowly in the shade all summer long.

They were planted on May 14th and have had over four months to grow. They grew very slowly and are just becoming big enough to harvest now. They seem to taste fine. They aren't any more bitter than the spring carrots (Danvers tends to a bit of bitterness, but the Atomic Red, Big Top and Sugar Snax are all quite sweet).

Now that the fall carrots are big enough to harvest I had to deal with the spring carrots that were still in the fridge. Yup, I haven't eaten them all. I was going to. There weren't too many, but the issue was too many other things that were more perishable had to be eaten first. So they sat there all forlorn. They seemed as sweet and as crisp as they were when they were harvested two months ago. I decided to blanch them and tray freeze them. I tray freeze most of the veggies that I freeze: celery (store bought), peppers, carrots, corn (from the farmers' market) and beans. I spread them on a cookie sheet and let them freeze quickly in my chest freezer. Then I put them in ziplocks. I should use a straw to suck the air out, but I don't. I just squeeze as much as I can out.

I'm really quite escatic over how the bed did. I know that part of the increase in growth was the double digging and compost in the lower levels of my heavy clay soil, but I think the companion planting added to the mix in a very good way too. Next year I'll repeat the process, but I'll find a better place to put my basil.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Harvset Monday September 21, 2009

Tuesday's harvest

The harvest season is starting to wind down. I pulled a lot of plants this weekend. Soon I won't have harvests. How will I continue to do Harvest Mondays when I'm locked in ice over the winter? My plan is to recruit someone from the southern hemisphere. Though someone from a place like Texas or Florida where they can't grow in the summer due to heat, and have better harvests in the winter would be a good choice too.

This is a call for volunteers (November-April). Now I know that this is a lot of work to get a harvest post on the same day every week in time for people to join in. Take today for instance. Right now I'm in a little bed and breakfast in NH. I'm sure I'm having a great time. But I had to remember to write this post on Saturday so it would get up on time. If you agree to do it, it is a commitment to continue. Obviously if there are emergencies and such it wouldn't happen, but under normal operating conditions it would.

I've also thought that if it was too much work for one person to do then maybe we could have four people and you could do it just once a month. Anyway if you have harvests from November through April and would like to do one or more harvests posts every month email me. I don't care what format you use. You can use Mr. Linky or if you can't do that you can just have people comment and leave their links there. You don't have to tally anything. The only requirement is harvest photos and asking people to join in. BTW if we have multiple hosts I'm going to ask all the hosts to remind people where the official harvest post will be that week. I will too.

If I get no volunteers, I'll continue to do them until I get no one putting up posts. Yup, I'll do harvest posts even when I don't have harvests as long as people continue to join in. I might be talking about something other than my harvest of icicles though. If no one joins in during the winter (my winter that is) then I'll discontinue them until my harvests start up again in May. Well it is time to get back to the pretty harvest photos.

Thursday's harvest

The cucurbits were this week's big winner. The cucumbers really put out this week. Most likely my last zucchini was harvested. Ah the end of the summer veggies. BTW in the photo above that is a baby neck pumpkin and it was not counted in the tally. I knew it wouldn't ripen in time so I took it in to see what it tasted like. It tastes a bit like a cross between a zucchini and a butternut squash. However it was bitter so I tossed it.

Saturday's harvest

The big news was that my first winter squash was picked. It is a Magdalena Big Cheese. Whoot! It may be my only winter squash. The one other one that set this year may not ripen up in time. Sadly I forgot to take photos of the pretty raspberries. I usually harvest them early in the morning and dump them in my cereal so photos are often forgotten.

So here are the weekly tally totals:

  • Beans 0.73 lbs
  • Berries 0.99 lbs
  • Broccoli 0.23 lbs
  • Cucurbits 5.01 lbs
  • Peppers 0.34 lbs
  • Tomatillo 0.16 lbs

Weekly total: 7.80 lbs
Weekly spent: $0
Yearly total: 183.99 lbs
Yearly earned: $633.73

If you would like to join in showing off your harvest, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below. It doesn't matter how big or small your harvest is. You don't have to count the pounds like I do. If you have had a harvest this last week, show us and join in!

Friday, September 18, 2009

On Making Apple Butter

Well last week it was applesauce; this week it is apple butter. I had a mix of about 11 pounds of Ginger Gold, McIntosh, Cortland, and some other forgotten apple. I found the poor forgotten apples in the back of the fridge. I had bought them at the farmers' market several weeks ago when the apples first came out. They had been ignored once the Ginger Gold apples started showing up. I think they might be Paula Red but I'm really not sure. When making applesauce or apple butter my motto is the more varieties the merrier even if you can't remember all their names.

I started chopping up my apples at 11am yesterday. When I chop up the apples I don't chop much out of the apple. I just take the little bit out that has the seeds. I probably don't even have to take the seeds out but I figure that apple seeds have amygdalin in them which is a cyanide compound. Though the amount is probably too low to do anything to me, I figure there is no reason to add such a thing to my diet. The rest of the core and the peels always go into the pot. The cores actually hold a lot of the pectin in the apple. So the more of the core you use, the better the apple butter will set. Many people add the whole core, seeds and all.

I added about a quart of water to all these apples to get them boiling. My 9 quart stock pot was a bit small for them all, but it didn't take long for them to mush down. I cooked them for about half an hour in their pot.

Then they were sent through the strainer to get out all the little bits and peels. You can see the rejected bits coming out in the bowl. My strainer doesn't do a good job in just one pass. I keep sending those rejected bits back through until there is no more sauce coming out the other end. In the end there was about 7 quarts of apple sauce left in my pot. To this I added 2 cups of sugar, 2T of cinnamon, 3/8t allspice, and 1/4t cloves.

It all sounds so simple doesn't it? The reality is that it wasn't. It never is. Recipes make things sound so easy. Nowhere does it tell you that you need a second huge pot as a holding pot for the applesauce. Nothing fits 7 quarts of apple sauce but a huge stock pot (of which I own exactly one) or my canning pot. So the canning pot came out to hold the applesauce until the stock pot was free. I couldn't cook in the canning pot because the bottom is to thin. The apples would burn. The worst part is that everything is still hot as I'm doing this. So when I dropped the bowl of applesauce from the strainer into canning pot, I got splashed with hot sauce. Then it turns out the bowl and the pot are just about the same width. Getting the hot bowl out was quite a feat. Then of course the bowl was boiling hot and covered in applesauce. Recipes never tell you what to do then do they?

Then came the day long stirring. I used the stove turned down low and just stirred it every 15 minutes or so. I wanted to keep it as hot as I could without it burning. Many people use the crock pot. I have a small crock pot. It is only about 3-4 quarts, which just isn't big enough for this batch of apple butter. I think next time I should go for a smaller batch and stick with the crock pot method.

I told you I started at 11am. Well I had a function last night and had to leave around 5pm. There is no way there is time to make apple butter in six hours. I suppose if you stood over it with higher heat and stirred it would work, but who wants to stand over a pot for hours? Not me. After 4pm I filled the crock pot with as much sauce as would fit. The rest went in the fridge. When I got back I added the rest and went to bed.

This morning my apple butter was ready. The old way of telling when it was ready was by using a wooden spoon. If the spoon could stand by itself it was done. I hope the plastic spoon method works just as well. Some people use the plate method. If you put a little on a plate and the liquid doesn't separate around the edges then it is done. I also made sure that it would hold it's shape when spooned up.

I put the contents back into a pot to bring to a good boil. This time it was my smaller pot which is much more manageable. Apple butter boils down to approximately half of its original amount. I did a taste test to see how it was. It needed more sugar and more cinnamon. I added a half cup more of sugar and another tablespoon of cinnamon. Then I let it cook for another 10 minutes are so to see if I got it right. It seemed pretty tasty. Most people use a lot more sugar than I do. Twice as much as I add is probably more normal. I don't like it that sweet. I like to do a taste test instead of following a recipe blindly. What apples you use really makes a big difference in the amount of sugar that needs to be added.

Then it was canning time. I had a nice new gadget for my lids. I had been just throwing them in a little sauce pan to boil but they tend to get all stuck together then they don't seal well. So I now have an extravagence in canning. This time every last one of my jars sealed - all eleven jars. I have almost 7 pints of apple butter. Hmm I wonder if I can eat it all before next apple season. I'm guessing it makes a really good snack with a nice Vermont cheedar.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Collecting Lettuce Seed

The Seed to Seed Challenge is going pretty well this year. I've had one out and out failure. The pea seed rotted out in the wet weather. I have one possible failure - my Early Jalapenos. I don't know if they will ripen or not. There is still no sign of red. It is the middle of September. I usually don't get a frost until the end of October, but we are seeing some nights in the 40s already and the peppers are certainly slowing down.

Regardless, I have a lot of seed drying on my dining room table so I consider my seed saving to be going well. As you can see some of those containers are doing very well. My Ground Control Marigold, dill, coriander and beans runneth over. The Dear Tongue lettuce is doing quite well too.

I let two Deer Tongue and one Red Sails go to seed. The plants are separated by about 12' so they probably haven't crossed. Though I have a rebellious desire for some crossing of the Dear Tongue. It would be fun to see a spotted red one in my garden. It is unlikely however since I've seen exactly one insect visit the flowers. A bumble bee zoomed in one day; landed for a second; found the flower not to its liking; and zoomed off. I guess I have better fare in other areas of my garden.

The blooms slowly ripened over time and turned into little puff balls. The Deer Tongue is really prolific, but the Red Sails is taking its own damn time. I have very few puff balls of Red Sails yet. I've been going out for weeks now and picking the ripe ones before the seeds float away on the wind. I don't find it a particularly pleasant chore. It is slow. They don't ripen at the same time and it is easy to rip off a branch instead of just the flower. So I have to use both hands. One to grab the stem and one to gently pull. Afterward my hands are sticky from the buds. Ick!

But the chore gets done and I get a lot of little puff balls every few days. Then comes the chore of getting out the seed. I like to rip off the fluff and shake the seed into the bowl. This part is easy since I do it while watching TV (or maybe listening to TV would be a better description). Susan Ashworth says to harvest differently. Maybe I should be following her advice. She says to harvest seed like I harvest dill seed. Every day go out and shake the seed heads into a paper bag. Then of course you have to winnow out the little puffs and chaff, which is hard since lettuce seed has no weight. She suggests using different size screening to get all the chaff out. I don't have such things. So I'm stuck doing it the hard way to keep the seed fairly clean.

Even with my slow way, I get chaff that is hard to remove. I'm thinking a little chaff is really not too much of an issue. If I do any trading, I'm sure my tradees will accept my slightly chaffed up seed.

And speaking of trades, I mentioned to Dan it would be fun to have a bloggers' veggie seed trade day sometime in November maybe, but after our northern gardens are mostly put to bed, after the seed has been harvested and before we figure out what we need to order from the seed companies. We could have the host put up a blog post with a list of all their seed, the rules and at the top or bottom of the post have a Mr. Linky (or have the host put in their own linked list of people). I don't think the rules ought to be too much, but it would be nice to know where people live (not full addresses mind you but an idea for climate and how much shipping is going to be), how and if they isolated the seed (as you probably know by now, crosses don't bother me much, but I like to know if crosses were possible), and keep it updated if the seed runs out. Optional but fun things would be descriptions and photos.

Now I could host this, but I think Dan is really the master of trades, don't you? He initiated so many trades last year that he seems the perfect person. Now I don't know what Dan thinks of this. So what do you say Dan? Do you have time for this? You don't have to be involved with anyone else's trades. Just tell us the day in advance (so we can advertise it and maybe get some greater participation) and just keep the list in some way. Don't you love how I'm trying to foist the work off on someone else? Just wait until next Monday when I try to foist Harvest Day on some unsusupecting southern blogger for the winter months. OK maybe I'll ask for volunteers for that one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day September 2009

Wow I almost missed GBBD. One of my fellow artists had an emergency and needed someone to fill her shift at the cooperative today. So I ran down to the store leaving my poor lonely blog to fend for itself. It still hasn't figured out how to write posts without me. Then when I got back, I was reading Michelle's blog and GBBD hit me in the face. Hmm the sun was getting lower in the sky and I had no photos. Luckily the garden wasn't in total shade yet and I could take photos without the flash.

It is amazing how fast you can take photos for GBBD when you don't have time. I'm supposed to be starting dinner in about five minutes so this post can't take too long either.

What would fall be without the blooming sedum. I swear this is the favorite place of bees. The pretty pink carpet is frolicked upon by a multitude.

This isn't right. My Trail of Tears beans has most of its beans already dried and picked. I'm waiting on a few more. I guess it decided that the last batch is done and it is time for some more.

My neck pumpkins never set any female flowers. In fact the 12' long plant never had one female flower even bloom. This will be the first. I wonder if I can eat it green because there is no way there is time for it to ripen up. It sort of looks like a zucchini. Will it taste like one?

At least the pepper plants are still blooming. They have a chance of getting big enough before they are killed by frost. They don't need to ripen like the neck pumpkin does.

My tithonia is still blooming as always. I swear the flowers aren't real every time I look at them. The color is too bright and the flower too perfect. I never show the plants for good reason. The plants look terrible all covered in mildew.

How did that get in there? My husband had been taking photos with the camera and left them on the card. I figured this guy is pretty enough to be a flower with his blue and red head.

Whoops. It took me more than five minutes to write. I'd better get off to make dinner.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Harvest Monday September 14, 2009

Tuesday morning's harvest

There were two major events in the garden affecting the harvest. The first was the pulling out of the tomatoes on Tuesday afternoon. It was quite a job and I was so busy that day getting things done I didn't remember to take a photo of the harvest from them. From the Sungolds I only picked the tomatoes that were almost full color. They don't seem to keep well so the green ones wouldn't make it anyway. For the blacks I picked any that showed signs of turning. These seem to keep quite well on my counter so they should all ripen before rotting.

Raspberries harvested all week long

So for a while I'll have some tomatoes as they ripen up. I still have one Market Miracle tomato that was pulled out weeks ago. I can't find just the right thing to use up the last of the big tomatoes. It is doomed to rot on my counter unless I get moving on this. Really I should just throw it in a salad and be done with the angst.

The second huge undertaking was the digging of the potato bin. Kennebecs seem not to be good bin potatoes, but I still got a crop underneath the bin where the potatoes were planted.

Thursday's harvest

The first of the fall crops was picked this week. Two small heads of broccoli. So far broccoli hasn't been very prolific in my garden. I'm hoping for lots of side shoots because the heads were only about four inches wide.

I've noticed a tendency this week to forget to weigh things. The tomatillos in that photo with the broccoli are nowhere to be found on the harvest record sheet. Nor is the basil that I pulled to dry on the same day the tomatoes were ripped up. I must try to be more vigilant.

Friday's harvest

I've been harvesting more than my food. I've also been harvesting seed. You can see the lettuce seed in the above little bowls. I don't add my saved seed to the harvest totals except the seed that I'm going to eat, like the dill, coriander and bean seed. I consider that seed to be money that I don't have to spend next year and fodder for seed trades in the fall.

Friday's beans

Except for the potatoes it was a slow harvest week. Thank goodness for them. Maybe next week will feature the first of the leeks to go with them. I can't wait for soup.

Sunday's harvest

So here are the weekly tally totals:

  • Alliums 0.28 lbs
  • Beans 1.12 lbs
  • Berries 0.71 lbs
  • Broccoli 0.44 lbs
  • Cucurbits 0.51 lbs
  • Herbs 0.04 lbs
  • Peppers 0.46 lbs
  • Potatoes 15.38 lbs
  • Tomatillo 0.09 lbs
  • Tomatoes 1.76 lbs

Weekly total: 20.79 lbs
Weekly spent: $0
Yearly total: 176.19 lbs
Yearly earned: $605.70

If you would like to join in showing off your harvest, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below. It doesn't matter how big or small your harvest is. You don't have to count the pounds like I do. If you have had a harvest this last week, show us and join in!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Wednesday is Farmers' Market Day for me. I have three of them within ten minutes of me. In Lexington they have it on Tuesdays, in Winchester where I live on Saturdays, but I almost always go to the Wednesday Arlington Farmers' Market. I have to work the store (an artists' cooperative where I sell my work) about two to three times a month. I happen to be the scheduler and always schedule myself on Wednesdays mornings during the market season. This way I can go home via the farmers' market.

Usually I don't buy much there. Free range eggs. Fish. Corn. Occasionally I pick up honey or some strawberries in season. But Autumn is apple season. I have no apple trees here, so the farmers' market is where I get them. There are so many varieties. I've eaten them all and loved them all. There is nothing like a freshly picked apple. Some are sweet; some are tart; they are all delicious. This week the Ginger Golds showed up as did the Honey Crisps.

Honey Crisps are my favorite apple, though it is hard to choose. It is sweet and crispy and has a good dollop of sour to it to round out the taste yum. However Honey Crisps are expensive. One stand was selling them for $2.50/lb while all the other varieties were only $1. Since they had Ginger Golds I stuck with those. These are wonderful apples that have a lot of the same characteristics. I bought a mix of the Ginger Golds and some McIntosh. I wanted to make applesauce, apple butter and maybe some pie filling too (not the diluted stuff with corn starch, but basically apple slices, sugar, and spices in a bit of apple sauce).

McIntosh is one of my favorites for applesauce. It sauces down quite quickly. The Ginger Golds I'd never cooked with before so didn't know their tendencies yet. Well it turns out they hold their shape quite well. My husband is not a chunky applesauce man. He likes it smooth. So I brought out the strainer and made the smoothest cinnamon applesauce that I've ever made. The tomato screen makes a really fine applesauce - well if you don't like chunky applesauce. Luckily for me, I like it both ways.

The seven pounds I bought were enough for about five pints of applesauce with a bit more left over for lunch. Sadly one of the jars didn't seal. It happens. Maybe I'll make some gingerbread pancakes. These are the prefect accompaniment to cinnamon applesauce. No syrup needed, just pour on the sauce.

Next week I'll buy more apples to make either pie filling or apple butter. Homemade is so much better than what you get in the store.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Digging Potatoes

Today was the day of reckoning. Did I have any potatoes in my bin? Did the late blight take them all out? The weather was cooperating for a change. I didn't have time until Thursday to dig them up and the rain held off. In fact it was mostly sunny for the two days beforehand. After no rain for a week and a half it seemed like the stars were aligning for me.

I dug up a few shovelfuls of the compost filling the bin. No potatoes. Then what did I see? Could it be? A three inch potato stuck up its head up just waiting to be plucked out of the bin. Yes! Then nothing and more nothing. That was the only potato from that side of the bin. The other side had better luck. It seemed there was one plant that actually set potatoes up the stem. The potatoes weren't big, but hey they were potatoes.

Here they are in all their glory. OK so it wasn't a lot. I'm guessing Kennebecs don't like setting all along the stem. What made some do it and not others I'll never know. But I wasn't done yet. When I planted, I trench planted the potatoes before adding the bin. I still had the trenches to dig up.

The soil yielded lots of beautiful potatoes. There were some really large ones too. The largest sadly got pronged by my digging fork. It seems I'm not all that good at digging potatoes. I damaged quite a few in the process. Maybe I should let the skin harden more than two weeks?

Here is the bucket filled with the potatoes from the trenches. That seems more like it. The yield for the 4x4 area was 15lbs 8oz. I used 2lbs of seed potatoes. This is not a stellar yield but not too bad considering the blight. The bin basically did nothing. It made me work really hard, first filling it up and then emptying it.

I did lose some potatoes from blight. Kennebec is resistant, but frankly the potatoes had blight in them since June so it is not surprising. Oospores (spores from sexual reproduction), which can survive without a living host, are rarely formed - though it has been possible since the 1990s, supposedly it rarely happens that the two pathogens meet to mate in the northern states. Zoospores (asexual spores) can't survives without a living host. So the odds are that the only way this nasty disease will survive to next year in my garden is if I leave any tubers in the ground. If you have ever dug potatoes you will know that it is hard to get all the tubers without missing any. It is common for potatoes to "volunteer" from missed tubers.

When I was piling up the bin's compost (which will be added to the top of the solanaceae bed when all the plants are removed), I saw the above potato peeking out. I even missed potatoes in the compost that I moved. Later this fall I'll double dig the old potato bed. This was the plan from last spring and seems like a really good idea. I'm contemplating sifting the soil as I go just to make sure I've got them all out.

Well the potatoes were a lot of work. I'm really loving eating them though. Last nights dinner was the first of the broccoli - YUM - and garlic mashed potatoes with homegrown potatoes, garlic and oregano. OK so I had some parmesan encrusted chicken to go with it. I can't wait to try some homemade french fries.