Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Little Rain Makes All The Difference

We have had some nice rain rain over the last two days. It has made an amazing difference in my fall crops. They seem really very happy now. On to a tour of what is in the garden right now.

This is the end of the rock wall garden. The lettuce is perking up. Before it was struggling, but it has grown a lot in the last couple of days. Other things in this photo, basil, chard, parsley, and bunching onions.

Just a bit farther on is some more lettuce and the radishes and turnips. The kale is in the back. It is getting eaten by some caterpillars. They seem to like the turnips better though as that is the only place I found them. The turnips can handle the damage as their leaves are huge. The poor kale is so tiny still. Now some of it is totally defoliated.

Next down the line are some of my tomatoes. I have two plants that are alive. My GabrielleAnn and Cherokee Purple. The Cherokee Purple is about five feet tall and just as wide. It is a huge plant. It has had occasional disease try to get in, but it seems to recover and grow on. Too bad there aren't all that many tomatoes left on it that are big enough to ripen. Enough for me to keep it there, but nothing like from the last wave of tomatoes.

Right next to my Cherokee, is my row cover under which I have all my Asian greens. The row cover keeps them pretty pristine except for the little bit of slug damage on the edges. Can you believe this mass of green? In the front are two kinds of bok choy. The next row back is tatsoi, then comes Chinese broccoli and last but not least is the Fun Jen. This spring I didn't plant enough of the Chinese broccoli. I got very little harvest. I couldn't use it as a separate ingredient, but only as a tiny piece in a stir fry. Now I get a decent harvest. It is enough for one for a meal this week. Yum.

Some of the bok choy is bolting already. Sigh. It has seen way too much heat this fall. But most of it seems to be sizing up. I'll have to thin it and the tatsoi out again soon.

I took some thinnings from the last bed and planted them right next door under the same row cover. I also put some turnip seeds and radish seeds in between the rows. I think it was a mistake to transplant the bok choy and tatsoi so late. It should have been done earlier. I didn't because I wanted my Amish Paste tomatoes to get big enough before pulling it out. There was a nice flush going on. I hate to miss such things. But because of that they were transplanted too late. They may just all bolt. But it was worth it. I probably should have just transplanted the Chinese broccoli or the Fun Jen over there instead. Fun Jen takes a lot longer to mature.

Farther along is my lone surviving zucchini. It has survived a nasty attack of the SVB. It had really bad powdery mildew going on. When I pulled out all the rest of the squash I cut off the bad leaves. Ever since it has been growing like gangbusters.

Look how long its stem is. I wish there were a way to control this plant. It likes to just meander along the ground and when it does it smothers everything in its path. This year it took out some poor unsuspecting dried beans.

I'm sorry. I just had to show you this photo of the huge zucchini blossom with a visitor. I know. Now you will all never visit my blog again because I just had to show a huge slug. He was really quite fascinating. I've never had a slug this big in my garden before. RIP. I hope I never will again either.

Past the zucchini in the old squash bed I planted some spinach to over winter. It has had really spotty germination. Or maybe it was that slug taking down the seedlings? I guess I'll never know.

I have a few other things that didn't have their photo taken. They were being shy today. The pole dried beans are still drying pods. I'll pick them again during the next dry spell. I have some peppers still putting out. The jalapenos are really putting on a nice flush of flowers and peppers now that the weather has cooled down a bit. I should have a lot in a month if the frost doesn't get them first.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Harvest Monday - 27 September 2010

Tuesdays Harvest

Bok Choy thinnings were tasty

Will not be added to the tally until they ripen

Chard and cherry tomatoes

The first of the turnips

Didn't the radishes grow really funky? For some reason they started on top of the soil when they first came up. I swear I buried the seed well. I pulled all of the French Breakfast radishes that I had growing as they had all sized up. They were a bit on the hot side, but great mixed into a cucumber salad. I've planted more seed, but doubt they will produce before our freezes come. But it never hurts to try.

In addition a lot of basil was picked, but I never took photos and never weighed them. Unless I'm putting herbs up this is pretty typical.

Shrimp with Tomato Orange Salsa and Radish and Cucumber Salad

And I promised a photo of the dinner I made for my SIL and BIL. I, of course, forgot to take a photo on the day. So on Sunday when I was eating the leftovers I took a photo of that. The tomatoes were mushy and the radish color had bled into the center of the radish. So it wasn't nearly as pretty, but still tasty. Not showing was the black bean soup.

  • Cucurbits 2.62 lbs
  • Greens 1.18 lbs
  • Peppers 0.11 lbs
  • Turnip and Radish 0.53 lbs
  • Tomato 9.39 lbs lbs
  • Spent this week: $0
  • Total harvested this week 13.82 lbs
  • Total for the year 284.94 lbs
  • 2010 Tally $884.68

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What No Photos?

I rarely write a post without photos, but today is it. I wanted to take some photos without my landscapers around. They bring in their big trucks and block the driveway. It is hard enough to get my work done much less get to the right distance for a photo. Last night they were still around when I went to dance class. This morning they were here just before 7am. I think they are trying to get it finished before the weekend. So your fall update will be photoless. And I'll try to get some finished photos of the yard next week. The fencing still won't be up, but that will be weeks down the road from now.

On to the fall update. On Tuesday, I ripped out four more tomato plants. Two were just getting sick, Market Miracle and Principe Borghese. Two were in the way, Romeo and Amish Paste. The latter two were in the way of part of my fall garden. Yes I know it is the end of September, but I still wanted a little more space. What I put in there were thinnings from my other little fall garden patch. Plus I seeded some more radishes and Japanese turnips. The transplants were: Fun Jen, Chinese broccoli, tatsoi, and two types of small bok choy. I watered them in well. I was supposed to water them again yesterday, but the workers were always in the way of the hose yesterday so it didn't get done. This morning there they were again so I just worked around them. Yesterday I could see the Fun Jen wilting through the row cover. Its roots aren't fully established yet and it was hot on Wednesday.

I also watered the spinach patch. It has come up really spotty so far. I should have put a row cover over it, but haven't yet. The row cover really helps hold in the moisture and makes things germinate better.

Which brings me to another subject. Where is fall? We seem to have gotten a nice week or so of fall weather (but without the rain), but then summer came back. Wednesday was 86F and today and tomorrow are supposed to hit the low 80s too. I remember ages ago my son's birthday was the day that we turned on the heat in the house. His birthday has come and gone and it hasn't gotten below 72 in the house yet. Now it could be partly because we have a new house which means it is well insulated and tight. But according to we haven't even gotten into the 40Fs at night yet. Weird.

And I really want my rain to come back for the fall (which might happen next week, if so I'll throw a celebration). When I pulled out the tomatoes I hand watered that spot for ages and ages and it still didn't get wet more than four inches down. The whole bed is dry as a bone. It just sucks up water. Kinda freaky for New England. We average about 4" (+/- 1/2" depending on the month) of precipitation a month all year long. Places that are on wells are on water restrictions. We aren't as our water comes from a huge reservoir and we had massive floods this spring.

OK enough whining. I'll leave you all on a good note. It may not be harvest Monday, but I had a really nice harvest the other day. When I transplanted I also thinned out the bok choy since it was way too close together. I had my first meal of fall Asian greens. I use the white stemmed bok choy and made a stir fry for dinner. Oh yum. Yum Yum Yum. I have missed them.

I also harvested some turnips and radishes. My SIL is coming to visit this weekend and has requested food from the garden. So the radishes will go into a cucumber and radish salad (both from the garden). Though I'll taste them first to make sure they aren't too strong from the warm weather. In addition there will be an orange and tomato salsa to garnish the spicy shrimp (with Cherokee Purple tomatoes). The black bean soup sadly those won't feature my black beans, but it will feature my home made salsa as I use a really easy recipe that is basically black beans, broth, salsa, and cumin. Really easy, especially if you are using canned beans like I am this time. And to be kind to my husband I'll make a Mexican rice that he likes (with my own tomato sauce). He won't eat anything else on the menu except the shrimp. So I need something for him. Hmm maybe I'll take photos of the meal for you. I haven't done a cooking post in quite a while. I was going to do a goodbye to the summer with photos of summer food I've taken. But I never got around to it. And really it still feels like summer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Saving Seeds

Tiger Eye Beans (from Dan)

With the move my seed saving is not quite what it was last year. But that doesn't mean I haven't been saving seeds. Some seeds are easy. My dried beans are both the harvest and the seed. So I have plenty of seeds for next year if I can keep myself from eating them all. They do need to be frozen for a few days to make sure all the weevils are dead, but before that they have to be absolutely dry. They are dry when they shatter when hit with a hammer. If they mush, they aren't dry enough. I've also started harvesting my coriander. It is finally ripe. I never picked any leaves (cilantro) as I wanted the seed to plant for next year.

Marigold seeds inside the dried heads

Marigolds growing in front of the tomatoes

The marigolds are so easy. I just waited a while and then picked the dried heads. The ones that I grow are Ground Control. They aren't the showiest of marigolds, but I love them as they keep the nematodes down. And though not as showy as one bred just for ornamental purposes, I think they are very pretty draping over the side of the rock wall. They like to grow up, but I just beat them down breaking their stems a little. They don't seem to care at all.

Tomato seeds drying

I didn't bother to save pepper seeds as they cross readily and I haven't isolated them at all this year. But the tomatoes are easy. They rarely cross and they are so easy to save. You just squeeze out the seeds into a bowl. Cover the bowl loosely to make sure it stays wet. And let them ferment for a few days.

Tomato seeds fermenting

They look pretty bad and smell bad, but it gets rid of the gel coating around each seed and is supposed to kill some diseases. After it looks just disgusting, you can pour off the gunk and rinse the seeds off and let them dry. I saved seeds from Black Prince, Heinz, Cherokee Purple, and Romeo Roma. I need to save some from GabrielleAnn still and maybe Amish Paste.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Harvest Monday - 20 September 2010

This week was an amazing harvest looked at one way, and pretty pitiful looked at another way. The poundage was high at almost 20 lbs. Really unheard of for me at this time of year with this kind of space. But it was all squash and tomatoes. Nothing else.

Almost half of the tomato weight was in Cherokee Purple this time. Amish Paste seems to be a pretty steady producer, but the Cherokees come in flushes. My Market Miracle is sort of between the two. Those are my only big ones left. Well I have Romeo, but I can't see any tomatoes on it, but it is hard to tell since that and the Amish Paste are so entwined that some of those tomatoes could be Romeo if they got bigger. The shapes are the same so it is hard to tell until they start to ripen.

Besides the tomatoes, I'm also getting squash. This is my pride and joy. It is the only butternut that didn't get eaten by the groundhog. He ate about ten of them. Could you imagine my joy if I got 40 lbs of butternuts instead of 4 lbs? The reason it was overlooked was because a section of vine climbed up the bean trellis. This baby was hanging behind all the bean plants. The groundhog would eat by grazing down the squash leaves until it got to a squash. Then he would eat it. Since the bed is only 2 1/2' deep it was easy for him to find all the squash. When I saw it sizing up I put bird netting all around the ground to keep the groundhog from wanting to come in farther to find it. It worked like a charm.

Now that the squash has been pulled out I put the netting over the cucumbers as the squirrels have taken to eating all of them before they even size up. This is why there were no cukes in the harvest this week. There were no beans because I pulled the green beans as the rust had really taken over them and I didn't want it to get to my dried beans. I have no dried beans because I haven't bothered to shell them yet. I never weigh them until they are shelled.

But soon the fall harvests will start. I won't have a huge variety or area for them, but if they size up in time it will be a nice little harvest.

  • Cucurbits 4.36 lbs
  • Tomato 15.41 lbs
  • Spent this week: $0
  • Total harvested this week 19.77 lbs
  • Total for the year 266.82 lbs
  • 2010 Tally $835.38

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, September 17, 2010

And Yet More Sauce

Three gallons of frozen tomatoes and more on the counter

I can't believe how many tomatoes I've gotten this year from just 12 plants. The Cherokee Purples have been the most productive of all. Because of this I've been making a lot of sauce. Usually I don't make spaghetti sauce. I buy it from the store. The meager tomato sauce I've saved in past years went into soups and chilis and such. I tried to not buy sauce for those, but spaghetti sauce has always been my very infrequent fast meal. This year I have so much sauce I'm not sure I need more for soups. Maybe.

Since I might well have enough for spaghetti sauce I figured I ought to boil this one down to a thicker sauce. I have a couple already canned that are thicker too. All the tomatoes totally filled up my shiny new 12 quart pot. Yes I got tired of dealing with just one 8 quart stock pot when making sauce. I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a nice 12 quart pot too. Oh goodness it makes life easier to have two pots when you are canning. Plus the new pot is big enough to fit on the big burner (my other one isn't) and wider than the other one so things cook down faster.

When it was all strained out and boiled down it made a measly 5 1/2 pints of sauce and one of tomato juice. So I boiled off 3/4 of the liquid. But I'm sure it will make yummy spaghetti sauce.

The photo above, taken in the morning sunlight, lies. It looks like they are a nice bright red, but the truth is that they are a very dark sauce. There are so many Cherokee Purple tomatoes in there that it is dusky in a way. It is very pretty, but not the bright red. More of a deep sultry red.

Current canning count:

  • Tomato sauce 13 pints
  • Tomato sauce 7 half pints
  • Tomato sauce 3 quarter pints
  • Annie's Salsa 12 pints (plus one is already gone)
  • Salsa Verde 14 pints (plus one that is already gone)
  • Tomatillo Sauce 2 pints
  • Dill pickles 12 pints
  • Relish 7 half pints
  • Applesauce 13 pints (plus one still from last year)

I still have some raspberry/jalapeno jelly from last year and a lot of apple butter. My new pantry is really filling up. I'm a bit sad though. I never made any jam this year. I'll have to make sure to buy some peaches, strawberries, and/or blueberries early next year to get some jam. I really should do this before the tomato season hits and I no longer feel like making jam. My problem is that it was so hot that I kept waiting for the heat to break, which didn't happen until now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall Garden

I started the fall garden a few of weeks ago. I started with radishes, turnips, and kale and followed a week later with lettuce and some Asian greens. So far things are going well in the fall garden. Well almost.

I had a nice stand of radishes going there. When I went out yesterday I saw the whole right hand part of the row (in front of the turnips and behind the lettuce) were missing. And a solitary leaf sitting on the ground near the lettuce. The dang squirrels decided to start eating them. It is my own fault in a way. I put netting over my cucumbers to keep them out. They didn't like that and started foraging elsewhere. Sigh. So I put a little bit of netting over these too. I hope they don't get eaten again. I love radishes.

The lettuce in the front is growing slowly.

But the Asian greens are growing like crazy. At least the ones in the front. I had a solitary Fun Jen seed germinate in the front (their row is in the back most row) and it is about four times as big as the ones in the back row along the fence. The front gets a lot more sun. These are shaded by the Amish Paste tomato (which I expected would be pulled already, but isn't) and the fence. They really could use more sun. The ones in the front are bok choy and are growing like crazy. I need to harvest some of them or transplant. Either way would work.

Yesterday I did a lot of work in the garden. I ripped out all the squash plants except the one zucchini that was still producing a little. And I planted spinach seed for overwintering. A lot of people were asking where I plant the beans and how much space I give them. Well the pole beans, Ottawa Cranberry and Trail of Tears, can be seen in this photo in the back of where I planted spinach. They take up three sections of fence which are 8' wide each. They are planted 6" apart in two rows that are 6" apart. So each one has about half or 12 sqft each. I'll do a round up of the beans and productivity in the fall after everything is harvested.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Backyard Update

So everyone was asking to see how the landscaping project is going. I've been taking photos as it progresses. If I were doing it, I'm sure it would take over a year to complete, but hire a few guys and they build things much faster. So here is a time lapse of what has been happening over the last week.

Thursday Morning, they had just started laying bricks on Wednesday

Thursday Evening, they made a lot of visible progress

Friday Morning, my vegetable garden area to the right

Over a long weekend I went camping at UNOs (Up North Orienteers) Family Camping Weekend at Pawtuckaway State Park. The weather on Saturday was perfect for orienteering. It was in the mid 70s and sunny. So beautiful. Sunday it started to rain so we came back early after a quick Radio-O course. Which probably means nothing to all of you as you probably don't orienteer, but suffice it to say we ran around in the deep woods looking for flags in the woods using a map and compass the first day and using a radio receiver, map and compass the second day. It may look very silly but it is fun. When we came back we got to see what happened on Friday.

The back patio area is finished.

And they finished the walkway around the Meeks side of the house.

My side of the house is coming. the first section of walkway is finished. I think they are doing the garden beds last though. They are digging out down to a foot deep and putting in good soil. So I'm going to start with good soil - at least I'm hoping. You can see that there is almost room for two long beds near the back door. Along the fence will be the compost piles and work area. Farther on where the shed is (it is getting moved to the other side of the house) and around the corner will be the main vegetable area. There will be a three foot fence all along that pathway separating it from the semicircular patio. It will keep the critters out. At least I hope.

Then they put down the dirt. Yay! Dirt!

Front yard still a mess

Yesterday and today they have been working on the front yard. They have to get that part done so they can move our shed over to the front before they work on the vegetable garden area. Some parts are already done in the front. They put in dirt in the front bed where I'll have my peach tree and some along the foundation plantings. Right now I'm hoping for blueberries as a foundation planting near the Meeks front door and gooseberries near my front door (provided I can find disease free plants and provided they are legal to put in here).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Harvest Monday - 13 September 2010

The basil is still going strong. I had to cut it back by half again as it was threatening to bloom. This half pound of basil was all from a single plant. All the other plants were ripped out to make way for lettuce (which I'm hoping has time to grow for a harvest). I didn't harvest the parsley, but it has all grown back too and it getting out of control. I wonder if my townhouse mates need some dried parsley. The other part of this harvest is a pound of chard. The leaf miners have come back so I'm going to keep it harvested every week from now on to make my chore of looking for their eggs easier.


Trail of Tears

Ottawa Cranberry

Since we were getting some wet weather this last week. I went out and picked all the dried beans. I shelled them in front of the TV as usual. It makes the chore go faster.

I'm just so surprised by the tomatoes this year. Last year my tomato harvest ended in the first week of September. I had all the tomatoes ripped out by then. This year I have about half of them ripped out, but I still have some very productive tomatoes. the Cherokee Purples put out a nice flush, but the cherries are still going strong too. And I get an occasional Market Miracle or Amish Paste. They are all sick to some degree, but not dying. And strangely they all have different symptoms. I think the only real healthy plant is GabrielleAnn. The Sungold progeny is doing amazingly well. It has grown up over my 7' fence and is now using my neighbor's lilac bush as a trellis. I can't pick the fruit they are too high, but it has been an amazing plant this year. I wish it were sweeter though. It isn't as sweet as a real Sungold.

The cucumber harvest (no photo) is slowing down dramatically. The squirrels have found that they are very tasty and they take the little tiny ones to eat. I think I might get one or two here from now on, but not very many. I've some weird thing happen to the cucumbers. I get the occasionally one that is yellower on the inside than normal. And these are very very sweet. Almost like a melon and not like a cucumber. All the cukes have been getting sweeter as time goes on, but not like those few yellowish ones. Has anyone else had this happen to them? I made some refrigerator pickles out of the pickles and put the really sweet one from this harvest on top. I'm curious about how they will taste.

  • Beans 1.24 lbs
  • Cucurbits 1.04 lbs
  • Greens 0.98 lbs
  • Herbs 0.55 lbs
  • Pepper 0.06 lbs
  • Tomato 10.24 lbs
  • Spent this week: $0
  • Total harvested this week 14.11 lbs
  • Total for the year 251.35 lbs
  • 2010 Tally $742.06

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

L'Shana Tovah and Applesauce

I found it quite appropriate that I was making applesauce today. It is the first day of Rosh Hashanah. For those that aren't Jewish it marks the beginning of the new year and is celebrated with apples and honey to make the new year sweet. And what can be sweeter than homemade applesauce?

Since I'm pressed for time, I'll just do a pictorial.

My way of getting the jars hot (so they don't break when put in the hot water).

Washing the apples.

Boiling them down (I don't remove the cores or peels at this stage).

Putting them through the strainer to remove the nasty bits.

Boiling some more and heating up the bath water.

Putting them in the jars.

Processing them.

The jar on the right is applesauce from last year. The jar on the left is this year's batch. This year I used Gravensteins and Macintosh. The Gravensteins are so green that it turned the whole sauce green. The Macs didn't have enough red on them to counteract this. It tastes pretty good, but looks a little weird. I'm used to a more pink sauce. Maybe next year I'll use a different variety, but there wasn't a choice at the farmers market.

All in all it made 13 1/2 pints of sauce from 20lbs of apples. I have to laugh at the Ball Blue Book because it says to add a 1/4c of sugar per pound of apples (or to taste). That would have been five cups of sugar. I added 1 1/2c to the pot. We like it slightly sweetened, but not horribly sweet. A taste test is a much better measure.