Friday, September 28, 2012

Winnowing Seeds

I've had bags of seed heads drying in paper bags for eons now. I'd been putting it off. It really isn't my favorite chore to winnow the seeds. But It is already the end of September and yesterday was a lovely day. I figured I might not get many more days in the 70Fs. So I went outside to separate the seeds from the chaff.

I always put down a piece of cloth or something to catch what blows away. Not because I care about the chaff, but because sometimes when the wind blows (or my fan that was hooked up today), it blows a bit too hard. Sometimes I lose seed and the cloth makes it easy to pick up. The other required piece is an old pillowcase. I put the seed heads in and stomp on them or if the seeds are delicate I use my hands to crush them all up. The mustard seeds can handle the abuse of being stomped on. The yellow mustard was easy to separate as the seed pods just shatter. The brown ones on the other hand were a pain in the butt. The seed heads just didn't want to open. And when they did, there was a thin layer separating the two side that wouldn't come off. So I'd get half the seeds from a pod. In addition the brown pods had some germination inside the pods. The germinated ones don't separate easily from the seed. I wonder if it will affect the quality of the mustard I make later. I hope not.

And I have to say, using a fan is so much easier than relying on the wind. The wind gusts so can really blow the seed where you don't want it. Or it stops so the chaff doesn't get blown away. But a fan can be controlled. It is the first time I've used one to winnow my seeds.

Some seed like the mustards and coriander were winnowed so they got very clean. Dill doesn't winnow at all. It will all blow away, so I just picked the worst of it out and don't mind the little bits of small stems. I never notice it when I use it anyway. The stems that get left in are micro thin and very small. I could have done the onion seed better, but the onion seed is the one seed in there that won't be eaten. I'm just going to plant it so it doesn't matter if it is perfect.

And as a side note. The onion seed is from some hybrid plants. So who knows what I'll get. I don't have room to let enough bunching onions go to seed to maintain genetic viability. But the seed from a hybrid is variable enough that it will grow well. I just don't know what I'll get. I figure it is a bunching onion. So who really cares?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pickled Onions

Since the weather had cooled down I decided it was time to pickle some red onions. Last year I used pickled onions on tacos. Since I can't eat tomatoes and peppers, tacos are a challenge to make a decent flavor. I did find a good recipe though that used pickled shallots. I switched them to pickled onions as I don't grow shallots. And as usual changed the recipe around. But I liked the combination of black beans, squash, and pickled onions.

The first recipe I tried was not my favorite. I really hate recipes that say use four large onions. Really? What the heck is a large onions? And if I have smaller onions how many do I use? I like pounds or cups of diced things. Numbers really mean nothing in produce. An onion can be an ounce. It can be a pound. This recipe was supposed to make six cups. Well it made 2.5 cups for me. So I obviously need more than twice the amount of onions that I used. The result tasted OK. It was too much like wine and not enough like onions as you might expect. And the result is almost black. A very very dark garnet.

The next recipe from Food In Jars, was much better. It wanted my onions in pounds. I used different spices (T brown mustard seed, T slightly cracked black pepper), but it worked just fine. As you can see in the photo above the red onions after boiling had almost all of their color washed out. I was worried I wouldn't get the pretty pink color. There is a reason to use RED onions in canning at least if you like the visual. And boy do boiled onions smell. I had to open all the windows to clear the smell out of the house. Note to self: don't make this in the winter when I can't open the windows.

But I was worried for nothing. The onions came out the most gorgeous color. I had to put them in the sun to photograph them as the light makes them so pretty. And how do they taste. No clue! They canned to 3.5 pints (not four as the recipe states). The one in the fridge will get tasted soon. I just made them yesterday and pickles are usually better left for a short time before using.

The kale I couldn't give away was frozen. I've got them in seven 4oz servings. I really want a working vacuum sealer again. My old one that was bought decades ago just doesn't work anymore.

Though not from my garden, I was stocking up for winter at the farmers market too. I bought lots of frozen chicken, some stew beef, and hamburger. I'll need to buy more, but she was begging me not to take all her chicken. She says next week they ought to have sirloin steak in stock again as they are slaughtering some more cows.

Join Robin over at the Gardener of Eden to see how others are stocking their pantry shelves.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Harvest Monday, September 24th, 2012

The larger bok choy really makes the Chinese cabbage look small. It isn't. It weighted 2.5 lbs, so was fairly large for one called Soloist. It is meant to be small but the reality is that it is short not narrow. And it would take more than one person to eat a head. I gave all the above away. I still had some of all of it in the fridge. I've found they don't hold well in the ground once they are ready. If I let them sit there too long they will start to rot. so better to harvest and find a good home.

My beans are still coming in strong. Again I gave them away. Last week I picked two pounds. So this week I'll have to finish those up. I find I eat about one pound a week given the option. Beans have been a real feast or famine crop for me. I wish I could get them to produce steadily. The peas however just aren't producing enough. Those are all mine.

This is a big cooler filled with huge leaves of chard on the bottom and kale on the top. I kept about two pounds out of seven of the chard. The rest was hard to give away, but with a little here and a little there and some help of friends of my townhouse mates, I succeeded. The kale I tried with, but with no success. I think I'll have to freeze it for the winter then. It is that or the compost pile. I couldn't leave it in the ground either. Basically I'm thinning my plants. I want them 16" apart and they are at 8". So half had to come up. I haven't finished thinning the whole bed either. More will have to come out in future weeks.

As many of you noticed I harvested my sweet potatoes last week too. Those are not yet in the tally. I'm going to cure them first. Then figuring out their weight will be tricky. There is significant insect damage on some of them. I'll be canning those. I might weigh the bad ones then guesstimate how much I have to toss. I'm sure I'll figure it out.

I've been very happy with the total poundage that has come out of the garden this year. I will probably beat last year's total even without all those tomatoes. Even with growing mustard seed. And even with some bad management of one of my beds. The heat we got this year had made the summer crops produce very well. Usually we get a lot of high 70Fs to mid 80Fs weather. This year we got mostly mid 80Fs to mid 90Fs in July. We did get three days in the 70Fs and three days in the low 80Fs, but that is it. So abnormally hot in our section of the country adds to the production. The early spring probably helped a lot too. Our ground unfroze about three week early with the warmer than normal winter. I wonder what next year has in store for us.

  • Beans 2.09
  • Cucurbit 1.33 lbs
  • Greens 19.18 lbs
  • Peas 0.17 lbs
  • Tomato 1.13 lbs
  • Weekly total 22.90 lbs
  • Yearly total 549.04 lbs
  • Tally $991.86

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 20, 2012

Making Applesauce

Well these aren't from my garden, but from the farmers market. I finally got their early enough to get their cheap 10 lb bags. Well cheap is a relative term. They are $8 per bag. As you can see I got three kinds. I find sauce is better with more varieties. Cortlands are kind of interesting apples. Lots of people like them for sauce since they stay white more than other apples. They don't tend to turn brown. For me that is a moot point. I put cinnamon into my sauce so it always turns a bit brown.

Every year I seem to do the preparation differently. Some year I toss in the cores. Some times I take out the seeds. I don't like to add the seeds since they contain a poison (not that it would get into the sauce, but I'm paranoid). One year I added the cores and all. The sauce was way too thick. There is a lot of pectin in those cores. This year I took the cores out. I don't peel them. I like the flavor of the skins. I remove them with my strainer after they are cooked. All of my apples are IPM apples since the skins are going in. So some of the apples have to be cleaned up a bit. There is occasionally insect damage and scab. They all get cut out.

I don't cook the sauce all that long. Just enough for the apples to break down well. I want them to go through my strainer easily. Once they are strained I add sugar and cinnamon. I don't add much sugar, maybe a cup for 15 pounds of apples. But I taste until it is good, but not overly sweet.

Thirty pounds of apples makes 21.5 pints of sauce. They took a while to make, but we will appreciate them. I find homemade applesauce so much better than the stuff at the store. That is so tasteless. I don't know why. It is canned for goodness sake. Not much to it. Of course making all this took me quite a while. About four hours in all, though not all of that was at the stove since I had to wait for the jars to process. I had to make the sauce in two batches since my pots aren't big enough to hold 30 lbs. And I had to can in three batches since my water bath canner holds 7 pints. I probably should have brought up my pressure canner (but not pressurized it). It holds a lot more than my little water bath canner.

I'm linking this up to Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard over at the Gardener of Eden. I'm supposed to be writing about things I'm preserving from the garden. Hmm apples aren't from the garden. So I will say just to make it legal that I have been curing my sweet potatoes for storage. I keep wondering how many pounds of potatoes I have in there. I won't know until I'm done though. I can't wait to start eating them. But tonight we get to eat applesauce for dinner.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sweet Potatoes Day 2

It did rain last night which is good. Things are still pretty dry. But my soil is fairly sandy and it was dry to start with so I figured it would be fine to dig up the sweet potatoes. Yesterday's dig left me with some sore thigh muscles. When I dig, I loosen the soil a little with the fork, but I don't like to use it much as it damages the sweet potatoes quite a bit. So I do it by hand while I squat near the bed. Needless to say I've gotten all my squats in for the week.

This side was much easier to dig out the potatoes. The soil was dry and loose. The soil yesterday was fairly compact. I was breaking up hard clods the whole time. This time once the soil was loosened with the fork, I could pull the plants out one at a time. I still had to dig around with my hands as there were quite a few lower down that needed more gentle digging. The bed is 8.5' long and I had seven plants in each of the three rows. You can see six that were pulled in the above photo. I was shocked how well they did. Some had huge tubers.

I had 21 plants of Beauregard. They made a huge quantity of tubers. Though I have them stacked and curing in some plastic boxes, I'll have to find more boxes to do it right. Currently they are stacked with paper grocery bags between layers, but that makes the bottom ones way too humid. Even with the lid partly off there is condensation starting. That can't be good.

The above Garnets came from just two plants. I had trouble making the slips so I only had two. They were planted in the corners where the circle ends. They almost have three sides of brick surrounding them. They produced abundantly. Not only that they were aggressive. The purple ones I dug yesterday didn't really root much where the vines touched. But these did so all over the bed. I swear there are some Garnets way into the Beauregard bed. Some are in the Beauregard pile since that was their section, but with the darker red skin I think I have them miss filed. The tubers over there were all small, but there were a couple large ones from rooted vines closer to the main plants. I'm not sure if they were so aggressive because of the warmth of the corners (I didn't see this in the purple bed at all), or because the variety is so aggressive. And the leaves are lovely. They are much less heart shaped, and more deeply lobed. This would be a good one for a pot with flowers I think because of that.

All in all the yield was much higher than the other bed. I'll probably decide to keep one of these varieties for next year. I think I'll grow Purple and which ever of these taste best. And I'd love to try Georgia Jet. I hear it grows extremely well in New England.

After the bed was cleaned up I reset the bricks for this and the other bed. These bricks are really just placed on the ground and not set. I didn't want to really set them as that would take away areas of uncompacted soil. You know, places were plants will actually grow. The areas in the bed near the path are already fairly shallow and compact because they were laid down correctly. After that was done I added a bit of fertilizer and compost and planted my fall spinach. This spinach isn't for eating in the fall. It is too late for that. But it will start plants that will overwinter and it will give me some of the first greens of spring. So I've already started planting for spring.

I find my rotation for this bed fairly nice. I got a crop of Asian greens in the early spring. In June the sweet potatoes were planted. Now I'm planting some spinach. It has been a very productive rotation. Would that all mine were as good. Right now I have a bed of lettuce that is once again bolting. I just never got around to thinning it out or harvesting it. I'm not excited about lettuce. I just haven't been interested in salads, so those crops have been neglected. But the spinach for spring can't be neglected. After a long winter, it is a much loved crop.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Digging Up The Sweet Potatoes

I wasn't exactly sure when to harvest my sweet potatoes. Some here do it right after the first frost, but I remember reading once that sweet potatoes don't store as well if they have seen a frost. According to some university websites sweet potatoes won't grow when the soil gets consistently down to 60F or 65F and I should never let them see temperatures under 50F. Well my soil is now at 60F and just going down everyday, not up. Our highs have been in the 70Fs and lows in the 40Fs. Starting on Thursday we will be getting into the 60Fs. So it was time for the sweet potatoes to come up. I wish I could have done them all today as we are getting rain right now and into tomorrow. But one bed per day is enough. And as you can see in the photo, I've got both outer circle beds filled with sweet potatoes.

I picked to do the bed with Norma's slips first. I had a whole bed made up of the slips she sent to me. I first chopped all the foliage down and put it in the compost. That wasn't as easy as it sounds since I hadn't finished turning the old pile over. As I turned it over though I added the green vines in. Hopefully it will help heat it up again.

I dug the first sweet potatoes, Korean Purple, with baited breath. I tried digging around with my hands in the soil before and could find nothing. I always thought they grew toward the top of the soil. But mine liked it farther down. The ones on the edges grew toward the outside trying to get into the hard packed dirt that forms the base of the brick path. They didn't succeed mind you, but I'm guessing they were growing toward the heat. Those were the hardest ones to dig out. Purple was a strange one. It sent long thin potatoes out into the white sweet potato row. Those were very crooked and long.

So how did they do? Well I don't have weights yet, I'll weigh them and put them in the tally once they are cured. But the best was the Purple (in the blue tub and the ones on the ground). They produced about twice as much as any other variety and they had some really big ones too. Sadly some insect had made holes in a few. I don't know if they will cure or rot. But I'll try to cure them. The second best was a tie between Korean Purple and an unknown purple variety. Norma thought it might be Korean Purple, and I would agree with her. It had very similar in habit and growth. The last one was an unknown white variety. It didn't produce well at all and was a PITA to dig up. It made very long thick roots that were hard to pull out. These weren't tubers, but just thickened roots. Of these I'll definitely grow Purple again. A taste test will decide if any of the others are worth it on taste. But regardless the white one isn't worth growing for me. Too few roots and too hard to pull.

I cleaned up the bed and put the irrigation back in. Later I remembered to come out and put the cat protectors up. While I was there I noticed how messy the herb garden had gotten. So I chopped the oregano and thyme back into its section. Both of them really want to take over the world. The chives are having trouble with the lack of rain. I didn't put irrigation in the herb garden. We always get enough rain for them. Well not this year. The chives are alive but very sad.

The garlic chives on the other hand are doing very well. I was supposed to take the flowers down as scapes so I could eat them and to keep them from blooming. I hate when garlic chives drop seed. The seedlings are hard to pull. They usually just break off and grow back. But the scapes got away from me and now they are blooming. The first flowers are starting to shatter and put their seed all over. But the bees love them so much. I'd hate to deprive the bees of such a feast.

I'd been curing my butternuts in front of the back window. I figure they get warmer there to cure better. But the sweet potatoes need the space to cure too. I put the sweet potatoes in some plastic bins. Right now I'm finding the right adjustment to the lids to get them to 85% humidity. When it gets sunny, which I'm assuming it will at some point later this week, the bins ought to heat up. I'll go for 80-85F inside when they do. I have portable weather gauge that gives me all these readings so it ought to be pretty easy to figure out. I hope so at any rate.

The butternuts have been given a much worse spot. The little tiny windows by the dinning room table are their small spot of sun. I don't usually have trouble curing those and I'm sure they will be fine there.

I suppose I ought to say something about curing squash and sweet potatoes. Neither of these are eaten right from the garden (though you can cure squash in the field). Both have to be cured because it allows their skins to toughen up and any wounds to heal. It also converts starches to sugars. Sweet potatoes aren't so sweet straight from the ground, but the longer they are stored, the sweeter they get. Both are cured for about two weeks at 80-85F. Though you can do it at lower temps if you cure them for a longer time. Since I've yet to cure a sweet potato, I'm trying to give them fairly good conditions to see how long they will store here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Harvest Monday, September 17th, 2012

This week I had two harvest baskets. I think my allergies are keeping me out of the garden more than normal. But the two harvests I had were very nice. They are starting to get more varied. This harvests had a few beets, beans, tiny zucchini, one large Chinese cabbage, a little cilantro, and the only two kohlrabi I'll get this fall. I don't know why only two of the kohlrabi grew. I planted four. And I was going to direct seed some more, but I lost the seed packet. I never lose my seed packets. Did I use up all the seed and not remember? I really don't have much of a memory. If it isn't in writing, it never happened.

I was very excited by this basket. It had the first of the fall peas. In the past fall peas never grew for me. This year they are producing. Not huge amounts, but at least they are producing. Recently I've only gotten tiny zucchini, but this time I got one real sized one. Oh yum I grilled it with the peas and some onions. It was delicious. Not everything could fit into the basket The kale is being thinned. I'll pick two every week until they are all thinned out. I'm not sure what I'll do with so much kale. I need my townhouse mates back home so I can give them food.

In the past I hadn't gotten enough beans, but this time I got more than I can eat. I planted my own saved Kentucky Wonder beans. The ones I planted in the spring came up true. But not one of the ones I planted this fall did. Since they came from the same set of seed I can only think that I choose the largest of the seed for the spring (which is normal when planting beans). Then all I had left were the smaller ones and the smaller seeds were the ones that got crossed. This is the first time I've saved seed and noticed any crossing. It crossed with two different plants since I see two distinct kinds. One is a bush plant with flatter pods. And one is a pole with purple flowers (KW has white). The beans all taste good. Not as good as Kentucky Wonder, but still good. But next year I'll buy new seed.

I had one little record keeping detail that I fixed this week. The corn all year long has been at 0.50 per ear and not 0.75 per ear of previous years. So I changed it. I need to check on a couple more prices this year. I don't usually update the prices often as they really haven't changed over the last couple of years very much, but with the warmer weather, different crops are producing differently and prices change. And since people always ask, I use the prices from my local farmers market. It is where I would shop during the season if I didn't grow my own. I know the tally number is a little artificial anyway. I don't eat everything I grow. I give lots of it away over the course of a year as I produce too much of certain things. I would probably buy a mix of different things than what I'm harvesting if I bought them. Some things in the garden fail. Some do amazingly well.

  • Beans 2.26
  • Broccoli 0.39
  • Cucurbit 53.19 lbs (last week's squash are included)
  • Greens 6.88 lbs
  • Herbs 0.08 lbs
  • Peas 0.31 lbs
  • Beets 1.43 lbs
  • Weekly total 64.54 lbs
  • Yearly total 526.14 lbs
  • Tally $924.07

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 13, 2012

Fridge Challenge

Michelle at From Seed To Table asked if we would show off candid shots of our fridge to see what we have in them. So here goes.

But you can't really tell what is in it without a description. Top shelf on the left has my refrigerator pickles and some homemade salad dressing. In the front are some red little cloths. That is where I put things too cool down quickly if necessary. Right now the spot is empty. On the right in the back are my seeds in an airtight container. In the large plastic container is an experiment. I chopped up a pineapple and added some cilantro. Then poured over half a fifth of spiced rum. I let them sit for two days. I've been eating them since. Cilantro is a good mix with them. But there is a bitterness to the mix that I'm not sure where it comes from. And when I cook it (had some on salmon the other night) the bitterness goes away, and the taste is divine.

The next shelf has two cartons of eggs from the farmers market. Then in the middle leftovers of blueberry zucchini bread and the aforementioned salmon. To the right is my greens bin. I find greens store best in a plastic bin that they fill up, but aren't crushed in. I keep a towel on the bottom so they don't sit in moisture and rot. It keeps them fresh a long long time.

Next shelf has a bag of cabbage. Behind that I keep my batteries. Then some almost gone eggs from Jocelyn, a farming friend of my townhousemates (who I've gotten pork from and some horse manure compost in the spring). She has the BEST eggs. So much better than the farmers market eggs. I don't get many over the course of a summer, but I wish I did. On the right of the shelf are some cut up finger veggies in those take out containers. Many years ago I bought them in bulk. I store everything in them. In a little one is some yogurt dip that I use with the veggies. Beside them is a bottle of CBC beer.

The next level are two drawers. The left side stores my cheese and deli meats. I don't usually have deli meats in there, but today I have some turkey. And lots of cheese. I love cheese. On the right is a drawer full of carrots. I pulled them in June and will eat them until the fall carrots come in. Luckily carrots keep well if tightly wrapped to keep them moist. I also use the towel underneath to keep them from rotting. And there are two kohlrabi in there too.

The bottom thin drawer I use for veggies and fruit. It is just the right size to fit those takeout containers. They contain all sorts of small bits of odds and ends. Often beans, peas, turnips, radishes, herbs, etc. I also have apples from the farmers market in there and onions that have been partially used.

So there you have it. My fridge. Not too exciting, but pretty representative of how I eat. Oh and so I don't miss out on Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard with Robin, I'll show you the one thing I froze this last week for winter.

I picked a nice head of Chinese cabbage, some cilantro, and turned it into cabbage soup. I had some for lunch that day, but the rest is all frozen. What I wanted to do was make applesauce, but the large cheaper bags of apples at the farmers market were gone by the time I got there. Next week I'll have to get there right when it opens. Maybe I'll take the car if my husband will leave it for me and I can pick up some of the winter meats too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Under Covers

I started my fall brassicas at the end of July. Well really earlier since I put them in as transplants. They have grown extremely well and I've already started to harvest them. I don't think the brussels sprouts were planted even close to early enough this year. I have to start them at the beginning of June and I started them at the beginning of July instead. Ditto for the storing cabbage. I just did it too late. They are in there. I can cross my fingers, but I doubt anything will really happen. I do have some early cabbage in there too. That ought to have time to mature. And the Chinese cabbage have already headed up. I've harvested one head and the other two will need to be picked soon.

At the end of August I direct seeded the next set of fall brassicas - mostly Asian greens, but I have Japanese turnips and radishes in there too. The empty half of the bed was seeded today. I'm trying to figure out how late I can plant them and have them still produce. In another week or two I'll seed more in the spots that I've removed the Asian greens from in the first bed. I'm not sure this area gets enough sun that late in the fall to do anything, but you never know until you try. So this year is the fall experiment. I was going to put in a bed in the rock wall garden too, which I know gets enough sun in the fall and early winter. But I really don't want to have to pull out my zinnias. They will keep blooming for the next month and I want to enjoy them. Maybe I'll change my mind later They do give me Asian greens all through December and into January even with the frozen ground.

While I was putting them in, the bed next to it had those beautiful white butterflies dancing on my mustard flowers (the mustard reseeded itself). I used to hate them before I started to use row covers. Oh how I hated picking off all those caterpillars. Now I can just enjoy them.

This bed has plants that were planted in early spring. The broccoli is Fiesta. It gave me great heads and huge side shoots. Then it started to turn black. I chopped all the old leaves off and chopped the main stalks back quite a bit. I let a couple of the side shoots on to grow on for the fall. I was hoping it could recover from whatever that black mildew is. It seems to have worked pretty well. I'm not getting the quantity I got before, but the plants are slowly putting side shoots out. The chard is chard. It just keep growing. It needs another haircut.

The fall carrots were planted at the end of July. It is hard to tell how they are doing from the top.

But from the bottom you can tell they need more time. There isn't much sun here anymore. I've got them covered this year because of the carrot flies that hurt last year's fall harvest. Hopefully they will have time to bulk up. I really want the quantity of carrots that I had last year. I loved being able to eat carrots twice a week all winter and into the spring.

The plants under the row covers tend to get over looked. I do peek in occasionally, but I don't keep close track of things. I have to remind myself to keep up with the weeding and the thinning of them. I weeded a bit in the carrots and the first of the fall brassica beds today.

While I was putting in seed today I noticed that I still had some old mache seed. I had two packets, one from Michelle and one from Emily. I'd tried to grow them in the past but failed. I figured what the heck. I ripped up a little bit of cover crop where the melons were and tossed both packets in. I'm not sure they will germinate as the seed is so old. But I hate to throw away old seed. Better to see if it will grow. If it doesn't grow, well I can always buy new seed and try again another year.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Harvest Monday, September 10th, 2012

When I first came home from vacation I immediately picked a melon which never got photographed as I ate it before even thinking about it. But harvest number two of the week was a nice haul of tiny zukes. My zukes seem to want to rot now instead of growing. I wonder if they are all producing only females now. It looks that way. Though there are a few beans here and in another photo, my main harvest of beans was 4oz and also never photographed. Hungry gardeners forget things.

My second harvest was picked because I was dong a stirfry and needed some bok choy. I as surprised to see the melon ripe when I was out. I have one melon left on the vine. Will it ripen? If it does will it taste good?

The broccoli is from my Fiesta plants that were put in during the spring. Last month I stripped all the old leaves off the plant and only left a couple of side shoots per plant. They are slowly giving me just a little more.

I was only going out into the garden to breath the fresh air, but then I noticed it was going to rain soon and a lot of the dried beans were dry. So out they came. Then I found some mini zukes and a cuke. The cuke isn't as big as it looks, the zukes are just tiny.

I haven't gotten around to weighing these yet, so they aren't in the tally. But I had a nice haul of butternut squash. There are about six more left out in the garden that aren't quite ripe enough. I have NO Tetsukabuto squash at all. The vines that threatened to take over the world in the summer just didn't set fruit. Well one set, but it rotted before it ripened. It was a total bust. If it had been a butternut I would have had six more squashes this winter. As it is I'll have enough for my needs. But it is doubtful that I'll have a lot to give away.
  • Beans 0.36
  • Broccoli 0.16
  • Cucurbit 7.38 lbs
  • Greens 2.93 lbs
  • Tomatoes 0.48 lbs
  • Weekly total 11.29 lbs
  • Yearly total 461.60 lbs
  • Tally $812.51

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 7, 2012

Compost Happenings

I never make enough compost for all my needs, but I do make a bit of it. I've been tossing on the plants as I've been pulling them out and the compost usually sinks down enough to toss on more. This pile was started last fall. I don't worry about keeping a hot pile. It is just too much work and takes up too much space. So I just keep piling it on until it gets too big for the bin. Once that happens I turn it in to the next bin where I take out finished compost. This bin wasn't empty yet. So I had to move it. I made a little wire bin to put the excess into.

I got all the compost moved out, but I only succeeded in getting half the pile turned over. I'll finish soon. Then I can put my screening back up and it will look nicer. The view out my back sliding door is pretty right now except for the compost pile. The garlic chives are in bloom, as are the marigolds and morning glories. I really want to rip up the sweet potatoes that flood the area, but I don't see signs that they have done anything yet. I'll be sad if they came to nothing this year. So sad.

Then for some reason I felt I had to finish cleaning out my pantry. I found a lot of bought canned goods that had tomatoes or peppers in them. So I've put them on the pile to give away. These I'll give to the food pantry. The food pantry won't take my home canned goods. So those go to my friends. One friend was over last night to pick up his share and he brought me some black currant jam. Oh yum. He says he will be doing red current jams too and he owes me a jar. It will be fun to eat.

I never did get to picking my squash. I really should do that. Most of them are ready. But with sweat dripping down my nose I retreated into the house. Maybe I'll get to it tomorrow.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cleaning out the Freezer

My first thought for my Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard post was to talk about my recent trip. I ate out the whole time and with my eating issues (no nightshades) it is hard to find things to eat on the menus. What is the fascination with putting peppers in everything? Normally when I go out this is fine, but this time it meant I had little to no vegetables for five days. I was in deprivation mode. Though to be fair I had plenty of fruit. The convention had marvelous fruit platters and lots of bananas and apples.

So when I got back I had to eat my veggies. Breakfast was veggies with a little egg to hold it together.

I skipped lunch as my system was all out of whack (conventions are germ incubators), but for dinner I had scallops pan fried in ghee. I used the drippings to do my stirfry. At this point on day three of coming back my system isn't screaming for me to eat veggies any more. I still want them, but I like a bit more balance. So this morning I had some cantaloupe with my veggies and eggs. The Ambrosia cantaloupes were sweet as candy, but didn't have the overall flavor as the Halonas. The Halonas were much less sweet, but more flavorful in my opinion.

Anyway I digress. I was going to tell you about all that, but Robin decided to defrost her freezer. Mine was long overdue so I had to. It led to me taking stock of everything I'd stored and what I still needed for the long cold winter. So since I haven't put anything up this last week I'll ignore what I've been eating and give you the state of my pantry and freezer.


  • Basil, both chopped in oi and whole leaf
  • Bok Choy 16 servings
  • Broccoli 8 servings
  • Carrots none yet, still to go
  • Celery none yet, still to go
  • Chinese cabbage 8 servings
  • Corn 3 servings
  • Gooseberries 4 x 1 cup
  • Green beans 4 servings
  • Spinach 42 Servings
  • Strawberries overstuffed gallon bag
  • Zucchini 4x 1 cup and 14 x 1 1/2 cup


  • Relish 5 cups
  • Pickled bok choy 2 pints
  • Dill pickles 7 pints
  • Bread and Butter pickles 6 pints
  • Rhubarb 2.5 pints
  • Plum Sauce 3 cups
  • Canned beans 2 pints, will can more when the beans are all harvested and cleaned
  • Blueberry Peach Jam 1 cup
  • Plum Jam 1 cup
  • Strawberry Jam 3.5 pints
  • Strawberry Syrup 3.5 cups
  • Apple Sauce none yet, still to can
  • Tomatoes, I still have a lot of tomatoes canned. I've sent out an email to friends to see who wants home canned sauce, because frankly they shouldn't be in MY pantry

Herbs and Spices

  • Mustard brown and yellow
  • Garlic powder
  • Dill Seed
  • Dill Weed
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Coriander
  • Sage, but not nearly enough, it was a bad sage year


This is my freezer area. I hang my storage onions and garlic here. I also have a spot on the top of the basement stairs for a smaller amount that I can get to easily from my kitchen.
  • Dried beans, not yet weighed
  • Garlic, almost 9 pounds
  • Onions, 50 pounds
  • Squash, not yet picked
  • Sweet Potatoes, I've got my fingers croseed
  • Carrots, not yet picked
  • Cabbage, not yet picked

So as you can see I still have chores to do. I have carrots and celery to freeze. I have applesauce to can. I might do some pickled onions too. Not on the list is the mustard to make. And of course I need to can more beans. I don't can all the beans I use, but it is nice to have a selection that is quick cooking. A lot of the fall storage crops are still to be picked and stored. I will start picking butternut squash soon though. Many of them seem ready to come off. And the big question is when I harvest my sweet potatoes. Any clue? It is going to get less summer like next week. They need to be cured before eating or storing. Curing takes a hot humid room for a week which we won't have anymore. Should I make a plastic box to put by the window? Hmm I probably have one somewhere. They will be at 100 days of growth on Saturday. Should I can some? Should I freeze some? Will they store long enough in my basement that is guaranteed not to be in the perfect storage range (55F-60F) for most of the winter.

As you can see my kitchen cupboard is filling up. My hope really is to be able to eat a lot from my storage over our winter. My main veggies are spinach (twice a week), carrots (twice a week), brassicas (twice a week), squash (twice a week), onions and garlic all the time, and the new one is sweet potatoes. It would be nice to have those twice a week too. So I'll be green and orange all year long. It would be really cool to have enough to have both a green and yellow veggie from storage every dinner over the winter. It is looking almost doable at this point. But four months is a long time. I'm guessing I'll run out or decide I want fresh veggies and go to the market at some point.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Going Solar

I usually keep the blog pretty much on a gardening track, but I know there is a lot of crossover between gardeners and the green community. So some of you might find my ramblings on getting solar interesting. When we were looking at houses we didn't just look at sunshine for the plants, we looked at sunshine for the roof. I'd looked into solar in the past and it was barely doable in Massachusetts. But it was doable.

Rewind to the year we moved. 2010. Unbeknownst to me, Massachusetts enacted some of the most favorable (or is it the most?) solar legislation in the country. Their goal I think is 22% renewables by 2020. Solar got a huge boost. They wanted to encourage people to put up solar in our not so sunny climate. So they gave us some very nice incentives. They instituted an SREC program (Solar Renewable Energy Credits). Though we do get some tax credits from the state the first year, the majority of what we get back is from the electric company. So they are paying for this program not with taxes but with increased electricity rates. The electric companies are forced to buy a certain amount of these SRECs from auction and the number goes up every year. The state mandates the number bought be based on how much solar is currently available and how much they anticipate. In 2012 for one SREC, which represents 1 megawatthour, they tried to set the price at $550. Every year it goes down. In 2022 it is supposed to be $347. Of course it is a new program and they have found that their formula sucks. They are trying to put in legislation to fix it. The state guarantees a minimum of $300/SREC with a 5% trading fee, so you see a miniumum of $285/SREC in hand with potentially more.

In addition they recently passed new legislation in August to raise the cap of people allowed to do net metering since we were getting very close to the limit. They also removed the cap for people who put in systems that are less that 10 kW (normal residential and small commercial rooftop systems). Net metering is of course essential since there are no really good systems of home storage of energy.

2012 was my year to start researching companies and finding someone to put solar on my roof. I felt moved in at this point. The garden was no longer new, but now easier to take care of. It was time. So I started looking into it and immediately tripped over the fact that Arlington was picked as one of the towns in the Solarize Massachusetts program. I'd never heard of the program before. I'm guessing it was instituted in 2010 the same time they started legislation for increasing our renewables. So Solarize Arlington started in May and I immediately signed up. What happens is that a committee picks a single contractor to do a bulk buy for the town. The more that sign on, the cheaper it gets. It takes a while to go through the system of getting a proposal in hand. They had about 560 people that signed up. Many didn't have roofs that were viable as they were too shaded, but our roof was fine. It ran from 89% unshaded on one side to 96% on the other side. So very good. It faces directly southeast, which isn't perfect, but still pretty good. So we were a good candidate. Our townhouse was number 2 and 3 that signed on the dotted line and put down our deposit. It takes a while to go through the approval process with the state and electric companies, but we should be producing power in the fall sometime. They think the end of October, but not everything is in their hands.

So with all these programs. Here are the numbers.

  • 6 kW system
  • 7368 kWh produced each year
  • 8226 kWh estimated usage with my husband's plug in hybrid
  • 90% of electricity used supplied by solar
  • $25,340 gross system cost
  • $12,665 net after the first year of running
  • 4+ year payback time assume $300 SRECs and 6% increase in electricity prices/year
  • $20K cash in hand after 10 years, more if SRECs actually are what the state is trying for

I was talking to my dad about how much Massachusetts give you back for the energy you produce, and he was shocked by the numbers. After the first year I'll have half the money I put in back in my hands. This is a combination of the federal tax credit of 30%, the state credit that the installer deals with (I don't really pay the $25K price), SRECs, and reduction in my electricity bill. With the stock market the way it is, how can I not do it? Heck I was going to do it with a 15-20 year payback. A four year or less payback is for anyone to do. They even have programs where you don't have to pay a cent out of your pocket. You just let them put the solar on your roof and your electricity bill goes down. The solar company owns the panels and you let them use your roof.

But obviously the gods of fate were smiling on me this year. Everything came together at the right time. Now I just have to get the back little porch roof on. The roof and icicles were trying to kill me before, with panels on the roof the snow will all come off at once. I'll be going out to the garden to pick something and be decapitated. I was going to get this done anyway, but now it is more immediate. I have to get it done soon. Granny is right. One thing always leads to another.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Harvest Monday, September 3rd, 2012

I harvested my basil this week. I didn't need it, but it was starting to flower. I like to keep it from setting seed as I've found the plant doesn't do well after that. But it puts out massive amounts if you keep the tops chopped off when the blooms start to show up. I gave the huge pile to my neighbor. I've been eating basil every week, but it doesn't get weighed as I just go out and pick and use it for dinner. I really like basil and chicken together. Little bits might not see the scale, but huge masses do.

My townhouse mate came over and asked what greens I had available. I kidded her about just getting 7 1/2 lbs of chard. In the past I've had greens in my fridge to give to her, but this time I had to go out and pick. This is the first of the "fall" greens. I think I might have to pick some of these and resow. I might have time for another batch since fall hasn't really hit yet.

Once again I missed a zucchini under the foliage. I think I'm getting worse at it. But I'm happy that plant is producing now.

I had two cukes in the harvest basket this week. The rest was dried beans. I won't be putting the bean total in until they are removed from the pod. Since I took down the Cherokee Trail of Tears plants, I can do their tally once they are cleaned up. It is just one of many that will go in the tally though.

The last of the corn was picked. It was so good. I might have to plant this variety again since we liked it so much. In all the plantings we have had a solid five to six weeks of corn which is wonderful. About 30 pounds in all. The yields weren't high due to poor germination so there is very little in the freezer. I had four sections that were 4'x 5' for a total of 80sqft. It shared that space with squash that was planted outside the patch and was allowed to run under the corn. I'd be happier if I got twice as much corn, but since you can't beat sweet corn fresh on the cob, I can't complain too much.

My harvest was smaller this week. Thursday morning I left for a vacation, so it was three days of harvests. I won't get back until sometime today. It was a good time to be away from the garden as there wasn't much ready to pick out there. Hopefully when I'm home things will pick up a bit.

  • Corn 3.00
  • Cucurbit 2.53 lbs
  • Greens 1.89 lbs
  • Herbs 1.50 lbs
  • Weekly total 8.93 lbs
  • Yearly total 450.31 lbs
  • Tally $779.96
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.