Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Since people were wondering about me on other blogs I figured I'd better post. We probably got tropical storm force winds but not hurricane force winds here. But don't look at my weather station for info. Its wind gauge has always been broken. Our house never lost power, but my husband is working at home for the second day due to power loss at work.

The storm ripped most of the leaves off the trees. Before the storm we didn't have a covering of leaves on the lawn. I was worried about my peach trees as in the microburst over the summer it had going nearly to the ground. I have it staked now to try to repair it. But the trees didn't even bend this time. They just lost their leaves. You can see one peach tree in the bed to the left.

The worst damage to plants is in my zinnia bed. I have cages holding them up but one has tipped over. The zinnias look ragged now and I'll take them down soon. But the trash can you see there was there during the storm. It never fell over. The wind was always pushing it against the rock wall.

Many of my fall crops are under row covers. This one that has 9 gauge metal wire as supports is now tipped. Not because it came out of the soil, but because the metal bent. 9 gauge wire isn't all that strong. The others with the pvc pipe were just fine. One end came open on one, but nothing else happened.

The kale survived well. Some of the leaves are twisted, but none snapped. I staked them all before the storm. I wasn't really thinking of the storm when I staked them. I stake them so the weight of the snow doesn't take them down in winter.

So there you have it. I survived quite well. Our microburst over the summer hit our section of town much harder. I took a walk yesterday when the sun was out and I saw one street with yellow tape over it. After the mircoburst about half the streets had it. The bike path had two trees down from the soccer fields until Lake street. After the microburst I couldn't count the number since it was so thick with downed trees you couldn't walk through. Our town still has about 4% of the people without power and had about 24% at the height of the storm. That is pretty consistent over eastern Massachusetts. As you can see from those numbers, we didn't get hit very hard. Things are getting back to normal fairly quickly. Our state lost a few things along the coastline, but compared to farther south we are doing just fine.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Harvest Monday, October 28th, 2012

My typical harvest basket got a lot smaller this week. The peas are holding in there, but this was the last of the beans. After picking them, I pulled the plants. I enjoyed having fall beans this year. I've never planted beans for the fall before since I consider them a summer crop, but it worked out quite well.

Last week the main bean bed got pulled out and I picked all the dried beans. Some weren't dry enough so I used them as shelling beans. I didn't separate the varieties, I just used the mishmash of beans all together.

Since it was going to rain for days here, I figured I ought to have a good selection of veggies for the fridge. I had a nice bok choy. It was the last of the Joi Chois left in the garden. It hadn't grown well and was tiny when I was picking the others. But once the others were picked it had the bed to itself for weeks, so grew up quite well. The cabbage is Early Jersey. I have two more of them left in the garden. One quite small. I hope it gets bigger.

The harvests are getting smaller. If you don't count the two weeks when I was gone on vacation, it is the first harvest total under ten pounds since May started. Sometimes the quantity gets out of control and is more than I can eat. I think that is done for the year and my fridge is under control.

  • Beans 0.08
  • Carrots 0.73 lbs
  • Greens 3.44 lbs
  • Herbs 0.04 lbs
  • Peas 0.19 lbs
  • Weekly total 4.48 lbs
  • Yearly total 611.52 lbs
  • Tally $1178.11

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.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Walk Down My Garden Path

It is getting closer to winter here and I was noticing the light in the garden yesterday morning was so pretty. The storm is approaching, but last week was a stunning fall week. We had sunny days and the weather was mild in the 60Fs (15-20C) most of the week. I took long walks or bicycled every day.

Only the hardy crops are left. You can see the carrots in the front. Next to them is the broccoli and chard bed. The next bed down has my Asian greens and peas and lots of way too big to eat bunching onions. The last cover has my cabbages and the Brussels sprouts. The sprouts are just the size of large peas. They don't have time to produce, but I can't bear to pull them out.

The spinach seems to have gotten big enough to survive the winter. I wasn't sure if it had time. Hopefully its root system is bigger now than the leaves above.

The kale in the morning dew was so pretty. It has all grown so well, but sadly now has a bad case of aphids so you have to wash well and choose your leaves wisely. Maybe the storm will blow them all off. I can hope, can't I? (Those white dots are tiny water drops, not aphids thank goodness.)

Lono protects my herbs in the middle of my circle garden. Though come to think of it he might not be the best protector before a coming storm. I put him there because he is the god of agriculture in Hawaii (both my mom and I bought carvings when we visited, and I thought the god of agriculture was a perfect sculpture for a garden). But he is also the god that brings the rain and storms. Hopefully we will miss the worst of the storm coming up the coast. The current forecast only gives us about 2" of rain and gusts from 40-60 mph. So it looks like we will only get a glancing blow. I'll miss the beautiful weather of last week though as we will be stuck in rain for about three days.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Planting Garlic

Yesterday was the day to finally get my garlic in. I like to plant the last week of October if I can. When I finished curing my garlic at the end of July I made three piles. The first was the damaged or slightly open bulbs. They were to use up first. I still haven't gotten through them. The second pile was made from the largest and most beautiful bulbs of garlic. These were what I used yesterday. I take the very best from the last harvest and use them to grow next year's garlic. The last pile of course is the garlic that will store through the winter.

The garlic I plant is German Extra Hardy. It makes large bulbs with large cloves. When I first planted it, it only made four cloves in each bulb. But as it has grown out more I've found ones that have made more cloves. I like the ones with more cloves better. That way I get both big and small cloves, which makes for better choices when I cook. And I don't have to replant a quarter of my garlic every year. I do love the variety. It is a porcelain hardneck. It gives me scapes every spring and the bulbs will last the whole year until the next harvest is ready. It is an excellent keeper. I used to have other varieties, but over time I've come to only plant this one. When I came to this house I brought two varieties with me that did well at the last house, but German Extra Hardy seems to resist the diseases in my soil better, so it is the sole survivor.

I plant my garlic by laying out a grid that is 6" apart. I put them 4" deep and then cover them with an inch or two of compost. This year they got leaf mold instead since that is what I was sifting out of the compost. And I did remember to fertilize them. The mache that I forgot to add fertilizer to is not a big deal. It isn't a main crop in the garden (really the first time it has ever grown at all for me). But garlic I rely on and it tends to be a heavy feeder.

Today I finished off sifting the leaf mold which was a pressing chore as I needed the bin to collect fall leaves. I covered three more half beds with about an inch of leaf mold. I have three additional half beds that need to be done before winter. I have found that my compost piles freeze solid over the winter and don't thaw out as quickly in the spring as the beds do. So I always spread compost over the beds that will have spring crops. It just makes my life easier. I do have enough compost for this chore as I have some real compost I made earlier in the year. I'm guessing it will fill the beds that I need and maybe a bit more. The compost is pretty weedy though. It has tons of seed from dill, cilantro, jump-ups, and the like. Basically all the plants that I've let go to seed in the garden. I should have used this for one area I put leaf mold into. I want dill to come up there next year. I might have to seed it instead. Usually I just put the compost in the right spot and voila, instant herbs. Or a lot of weeding out of those herbs in the other beds.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Since I have decided to leave my carrots in longer, I had to transplant the mache to another bed. That way I'll have a place to plant my garlic. I was going to have to transplant it in the spring anyway if I wanted to let it go to seed (I'll see if I like it and it overwinters well). So the work wasn't wasted it was just done this fall instead of next spring.

The first chore was to sift some leaf mold. This bin was filled with leaves two years ago, we barely touched it. I actually fill two bins with leaves in the fall and we need just over one for our carbon additions to the compost during the year. But I like to fill a whole two bins. Last fall I topped it off with leaves again as it has gone down to half its size. Now it is just under half a bin tall and filled with wonderful leaf mold. The reality is that much of the top layer is filled with worm castings. I think it was worm heaven in there this year. Lower down there is a layer that is dried leaves that have turned into powder. I obviously should have added water and turned it, but this is an easy way to get some good organic matter without the work. And occasionally I run into an undecomposed clump of leaves that get screened out.

Leaf mold isn't as nutrient rich as compost, but it is still an excellent addition to the soil, and I don't make nearly enough compost to cover the garden. In fact I might have to buy some this spring, but with the added leaf mold, I think I'll have enough to cover the spring beds. I hope.

The next step was to double dig the bed. Since these beds are fairly new they don't need to be double dug yet. But I figure I don't want a year where I have to double dig all my beds. I like to get air in there occasionally. If I do three half beds a year, it will take me six years to get through the rotation. That seems about right. At my last house the soil was clay and the rocks were atrocious. It always took me hours, well days, to do a bed it was so much work. This bed didn't take long at all. I didn't time it but I wasn't horribly tired after I was done. I'll do another half in November sometime. And one more in the spring. Mostly I do a no till bed, but I find that double digging really helps to keep the soil aerated when you use that style of gardening. And I'm pleased to say that I now have WORMS! Yes my totally worm free garden is finally coming to life. It doesn't have nearly the numbers as my last garden yet, but it is well on its way.

Then it was the easy job of tossing the leaf mold on top of the soil and putting in my transplants. I'm not sure how far apart to put the mache. I put them about 5". I did forget to add fertilizer. Whoops. I sprinkled a little over the top. It wasn't a very heavy application as I don't want to burn the plants and I was too lazy to be careful about sprinkling around the edges. After planting they were covered with cat protection.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Celery, Zucchini, and Rosemary

This week I've been working on the last of the things to preserve for the winter. Yesterday I spent part of the day redesigning next year's garden. You wouldn't think they were related, but they are. I had it worked out in my head where things were going, but I ran into a snag. I really want to keep the fall carrots in the ground longer, maybe a couple more weeks. The garlic really needs to get planted this week. But I had the garlic following my fall carrots. My biggest problem is the mache that I willy nilly just tossed into the garden. It was old seed I wasn't willing to throw out. I really didn't think it would germinate. But germinate it did. The only other place to put the garlic is where the mache is growing right now. If I want to keep those carrots in the ground a little longer to size up more (and they could use sizing up a bit more), then I'll have to transplant the mache. Darn. It is what I get for not thinking about where I put things and not thinking of my rotations in the garden.

But carrots are for future preservation this fall. This week I froze the celery harvest. I'm not a huge fan of fresh celery, but I do love it in soups. So I froze batches of celery in 3/4 cup packets. Before I've frozen it on a cookie sheet and then put it into a ziplock. But by the time spring rolls around the bag is mostly ice crystals. I decided I wanted slightly better quality, which means individually packaging them. I used my new FoodSaver vacuum sealer. It works so much better than my last one. It really can suck out the air.

But when I tried to do the zucchini, the vacuum was so strong it sucked the juice out of them. So one got frozen like that. And the other two zucchini packets were frozen first and sealed after. I guess there is a flaw with a really strong vacuum. Ah well. I used to freeze the zucchini first anyway before packaging it up.

In more attempts to use up my zucchini pile, I had a zucchini frittata for lunch that was delicious. I can now say my zucchini problem is solved. I have exactly one 3" long zucchini left. I was worried that they would start to rot before I used them up, but freezing really helps. I just wasn't willing to freeze the little tiny zucchini.

I had an epiphany while eating my lunch. I love three bean salad. While this is a take off of three bean salad (notice I used zucchini in this too) and not the pure form, it is still bean salad. And what is bean salad but pickled beans? I ought to be able to can them shouldn't I? I always look for good ways to preserve things. I do freeze some beans, but I don't like them nearly as much as fresh and usually just eat them in soups. I hate canned beans. But I might just love pickled beans. I did dilly beans, but three bean salad would be so much better. Next year I have to make enough for a jar every month. Yum. And just so you know, every item in this lunch had something from the garden. The salmon salad was made with leftover salmon and some of my canned relish - on a homemade sesame seed bun. The soup was leftovers too. You saw the first bowl last week. It has my Chinese cabbage and squash in it. The bean salad itself was totally garden filled with black beans, green beans, carrots, onions, zucchini, and garlic from the garden. Yummy. And can you tell I eat a lot of leftovers for lunch?

And I almost forgot I dehydrated some rosemary. I had used half of what I'd dehydrated earlier in the year and I figured I ought to top off the jar before winter hits. In the summer I use a dehydrator, but since the heat came on in the house, the air is dry enough to dehydrate it by hanging it up. It takes longer, but is less work that way. I think today it will be dry enough to put into jars.

Since Robin is away on vacation, Jody is doing Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard so head on over to his blog, Spring Garden Acre.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Harvest Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Last week I spent my time in the garden cleaning out the summer plants. As I went along I harvested anything that was left. From the bean patch I got green beans, shelling beans, and dried beans. I still haven't shelled those shelling beans so they won't go into the tally until later. But the Masai green beans gave me quite a bit. I had thought I picked all of them, but I was quite wrong. I still don't like the variety. I'm not a fan of those thin little gourmet beans. I like the big old fashioned ones for taste so much better.

I also cleaned out the squash beds so picked the last ripe ones. Or ripish ones I guess. The bigger Tetsukabuto squash passed the fingernail test, but the butternut didn't. From the color I can tell it is ripe enough, but it won't store well, so it will go into my pile of squash to use up first. The little one wasn't ripe, but I used it in some soup where its mild flavor worked out well. I also picked four unripe butternuts that didn't make the tally as they won't get eaten. They are adorning my front steps before they meet their fate in the compost pile.

I picked some beets that had sized up. And those are the last of the zucchini. I thought last week would have been the last, but the frost didn't kill the plants, just most of the leaves. The plant used the last of its energy to send out a few more female blossoms. The beans aren't from the bean bed. I planted a small section of beans at the end of the carrot bed. The frost just nipped a few leaves, but mostly the plant looks healthy. It is mostly played out but I keep getting a few pods here and there. The peas are similar. The big flushes are gone, but I get a few peas now and again.

The celery was picked. Last year I picked it throughout the summer taking off single stalks, but this year it was just too hot. The celery sat in the ground but didn't grow. As the cooler fall hit the plants finally started to size up. Last year I got over 11 pounds from four plants. These are eight plants and I've picked a good portion of them and only have 3+ pounds. I'll get another harvest before everything freezes up, but not nearly what I got last year even with twice the space. This year I've grown both Ventura and Redventure. The red one is only mildly red and very strongly flavored. I would only eat it cooked. The Ventura does a decent job of self blanching the center stalks. So it is much more mild. The stalks are also wider but shorter as you can see in the photo. I don't really eat celery much raw, so it all got frozen for winter soups.

Last night I had to go out and harvest some carrots for dinner. I had run out of them and we were having chicken soup. The carrots are about the best I've ever grown in taste. They aren't huge carrots like I got last year, but the flavor is wonderful. Usually supermarket carrots taste better than mine. Mine often have a bitter edge to them. But not this fall. I think the row cover really helped out with that. Since the carrot flies couldn't get to them, the carrots weren't stressed. This bed used to have brassicaas in it so the nematodes weren't there unlike with my spring planted carrots that were overrun. I need to remember to always grow carrots after brassicas. After mustards would be best, but any brassica is good. I would say never ever grow them after the nightshade crops but since I'm never going to grow the nightshades again, I don't think that is an issue for me.

I beat the 600 lb mark this week. Whoohoo! And I haven't even weighed in the sweet potatoes, the fall carrots, or the dried beans. Last year I got over 30lbs in fall carrots. I think this year I won't get as much. But if I come close I might even make the 700 lb mark. That would be totally awesome from a 570 sqft plot. I'm doing pretty well this year even with the low yield of my umbelliferae plants (which is the carrot family - carrots, parsnips, fennel celery, dill, parsley, cilantro, caraway, cumin, chervil, and poison hemlock - OK I don't grow all of those in the garden especially the last one).

  • Beans 1.23
  • Carrots 0.60 lbs
  • Cucurbit 9.53 lbs
  • Greens 3.64 lbs
  • Peas 0.09 lbs
  • Beets 1.71 lbs
  • Weekly total 16.80 lbs
  • Yearly total 607.26 lbs
  • Tally $1164.94

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.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Getting It Done

It has been a good week for cleaning up the garden. Each day except Thursday I was out and cleaned up one full bed. I also got the morning glories cleaned off the compost pile. The above beds were done on Monday and Tuesday. I usually crop off the houses in the distance, but then people get shocked when they find out I live in an urban environment. This shows a little of where we live. My neighbors are pretty close. My last house had a half an acre mostly in woods. This one has 9000 sqft which is shared by two townhouses. Most of my garden is in the side yard. It abuts my neighbors driveway which comprises the whole of their side yard. Interestingly enough our side yard was fairly similar when we bought the house. We had to rip out driveway to put in part of the garden.

These two got done on Wednesday and Friday. Some is still left in the one bed as it is a cover crop of oats, peas, and vetch. It is patchy since I put it in as something was pulled out. The oats and peas will die over the winter and the vetch will get turned under in the spring. You can see in the background the tomato plant still in. I've got to pull that bed. Mostly it is random cilantro and mustards that are growing, but there is a little cover crop and some carrots.

I didn't think these carrots would have enough time/sun to produce. The sections near the fence get less sun than the section near the path. The trees and the neighbor's house shade it much earlier in the fall than the other side. But it is an experiment. I want to see how big they get. If they do fairly well I might be able to use the fence section for fall carrots if I get them in soon enough. My other option is to put some of the fence section in blueberries instead of veggies. They will do well with a little shade in the spring and fall. And I find that my area to grow things is just a little too large for vegetables. I'm allowing sections to be unproductive at times and I just don't care. That means I have too much space. I suppose this isn't a terrible thing. At my last garden I was always wanting more.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What I'm Not Preserving

I was at Trader Joe's the other day. These organic pears were calling to me. Normally pears don't call to me and I buy my fruit during the season at the farmers market. But I had been reading canning blogs for the last couple of weeks. I kept coming across a recipe for Pear Vanilla Jam from the Food in Jars blog. Everyone was saying it was the best jam in the world. The recipe called for vanilla beans. As luck would have it Trader Joe's also sells those. So I caved and bought them.

The recipe also calls for liquid pectin. I hate using bought pectin. I like to make jam the old fashioned way. Pears have very little pectin but they do have some. I've made jam successfully from the low in pectin fruit before. So I figured I'd try it again. And if it didn't work, I'd have some pretty yummy sauce to pour over pancakes. I did add lemon juice to the ingredients as it does help things gel. Pectin, sugar, and acid are all the things you need to make a jam gel. Most fruit have enough acid, but it never hurts, and the flavor of the added lemon juice is always good (as long as you are not too heavy handed with it). I used four cups of pears, 2 cups of sugar, one vanilla bean, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. It was coming together just fine until I stepped out of the room for a bit. I forget why. Probably to visit the bathroom or check the laundry or some such silly thing. I came back to a burnt smell. Ahhhhh! I had burnt my jam. That was something I hadn't done before. Too bad too. As it was cooking it tasted wonderful. I'm so sad to have lost it. So this week I'm NOT preserving pear jam. But I have been eating jam that was preserved.

I made some cardamom bread over the weekend and had the leftovers with some of my strawberry jam (yes made without any added pectin). It is a nice combination.

I didn't take many photos of things cooked from the garden, but on that same trip to Trader Joe's, we had extra time to kill before a meeting. So we stopped at the H Mart. If you have never seen one it is the biggest Asian food market known to man, or at least the one we have is. It has a whole wall of different kinds of kim chi. Acres of noodles, and an aisle of different soy sauces. And the produce section is amazing with things I've never seen before. It is best to come in with a mission for one or two things, or to have hours to wander the aisles in fascination. I wanted to stop in and find some young ginger (not the normal kind you find in the stores). If any shop had it, they would. But no it wasn't there. But the mushrooms pulled me in. At Whole Foods the exotic mushrooms cost a fortune. Here they are about $6/lb. They had both wood ear and enoki mushrooms, which I adore, but I couldn't use up both packages before they went bad, so I picked the enoki mushrooms. I made soup with my Chinese cabbage and a too young Tetsukabuto squash. The too young squash was perfect for soup. It didn't over power it even though it had quite a bit in it. The broth was from my local hot pot restaurant. When I go I always bring some quart containers and bring home the broth. It makes the most wonderful soup.

I'm linking up to Jody this week at Spring Garden Acre, as he has Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard this week.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Clean Up

I just started my major fall clean up yesterday. It always happens around the first frost. The bed on the left I did yesterday. The bed on the right I'll do today. The bed I took down was the bean bed so it took some time. I harvested all the beans left including any that were at the shelling beans stage. And I took down the trellis. I also got the sunflowers down and a few other odds and ends cleaned up. I put on my cat protectors (tomato cages), but forgot that I was going to use some bird netting instead. It keeps the cats out better and looks nicer. Sadly it is too late for a cover crop. I ought to get my crops out a couple weeks earlier. Then it would have plenty of time to get started before the ground freezes.

This is another set of beds that need to be cleaned up. The closest one actually has a scattering of cover crop. Where ever I took out plants I put in a cover crop at that time. But if you look closely you will see a flower on the zucchini.

Yup I've got several of them blooming right now. So the plant isn't dead, just most of the leaves. And if you look to the right you can see some mache coming up. I just tossed some old seed in to see if it any would germinate. I didn't have new seed. It turns out that both varieties germinated. So I'll get to see if Golden Corn Salad (from Michelle years ago) is hardy here. It is more tender than the regular variety. Of course I put it in the wrong spot. I really didn't think they would grow. So I'll have to transplant some next spring if I want to collect seed.

The last chore was to take off the row cover on the carrots. I'll have to harvest the majority of them and take down the last of the beans next week as this is where my garlic is getting planted. I'm hoping with a bit more light they might size up a little more. Hopefully the carrot flies were taken down by the frost. I'll be sad if I'm wrong about that. But the carrot bed just isn't getting light anymore. It loses its sun before noon and the days are short. So I want to give it as much of a chance as possible.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Harvest Monday, October 15th, 2012

I'm still trying to eat everything in my fridge, but I had to go out and harvest before our first cold spell. I admit to picking carrots just because I wanted them. It is nice having carrot sticks just to munch on for snacks. But I still have a whole Chinese cabbage to eat and pounds of zucchini that has stacked up. I might just have to shred and freeze. Though some I'll keep as that is the last of the zucchini. The plants died in the cold on Friday night. Some of my beans died, but some survived.

Most of the tomato plant died too, but a couple high leaves survived. Not that it matters. Any tomato that had a chance to ripen got picked. It was pretty productive this year. It didn't quite hit 30lbs at least if all those tomatoes actually ripen.

Last night I needed some chard for my pizza. My favorite pizza combo is onions, mushrooms, and chard (or spinach or kale). I saute them in red wine (since I can't have tomato sauce). This time I added zucchini since I have so many. It gets tossed in anything, but I'm not making much of a dent.
  • Beans 0.25
  • Broccoli 0.10
  • Carrots 0.65 lbs
  • Cucurbit 1.00 lbs
  • Greens 0.39 lbs
  • Peas 0.17 lbs
  • Tomatoes 9.46 lbs
  • Weekly total 12.03 lbs
  • Yearly total 590.46 lbs
  • Tally $1124.72

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.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Early Frost

Usually the first frost in the area misses my garden. I live in a warm area with lots of houses and blacktop. The area's first frost hits places more open and natural than our urban area. My first frost is usually the last week of October. But last night got down to 29F. Technically it wasn't a frost. I saw frost on not one plant, not rooftops, not cars. So no real frost (and no pretty photos). But since the temp was three degrees below freezing, it was cold and good enough to kill some plants. The basil is half black right now. I'm sure it will get blacker as it defrosts. The squash is all wilted. The beans are surprisingly OK. I felt their leaves. They don't seem to have any frozen spots. Even their few flowers look fine. Go beans. The morning glories that climb over my compost pile look ugly now. The zinnias look surprisingly fine.

I saw the frost warnings so Thursday I did a total clean out of the tender plants for harvestable fruit. I stripped the tomato plant of anything that might ripen and the ones that already were. I dumped the box in my townhouse mates kitchen. Hopefully they will ripen for them. I picked all the beans that were even close to large enough. And I stripped the zucchini of any fruit even small ones with open flowers. I didn't think anything was worth covering. The beans are almost played out. The tomato plant I'm happy enough to pull out. And I can't keep up with the zucchini anyway.

It is time to move on to fall crops. I have plenty of greens waiting to be picked. They are hardy and some will last through December even once the ground freezes in November. I'll pick most of the carrots to store soon. It looks like I might have a decent crop. Not as good as last year's maybe, but decent. And I've started eating my squash this week. I should eat one about every week from now on as I have enough for about five months if I eat them at that rate. I have tons of sweet potatoes. I've cured them and they are downstairs in the basement hopefully getting sweeter. I tried them last week and they are still too starchy. In a couple of weeks I'll try them again. I don't want to can the damaged ones until they are very sweet and tasty.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beauty in Failure

I had just one can of beans left canned in my pantry. It was left over from canning last winter. I eat a lot of beans in the winter, but not so many in the summer. I used to make bean salads with tomatoes and pepper. But now that I can't eat tomatoes and peppers anymore, I find the beans don't get eaten much during the warm season. I really have to find some new salad recipes.

But I digress. When I canned that jar I still wasn't happy with the procedure. I was canning directly how you are told to. Soak the beans. Cook for 30 minutes. Add beans to 1" from the top then fill with boiling water leaving 1" head space. Pressure can at 10lbs for 75 minutes for pints. It worked, but I had multiple lid failures. The liquid from boiling beans is thick and gummy. It can easily get under the lid and cause a failure. Also I often have lots of different kinds of beans from the garden and I don't want to have to cook each different kind individually in a pot. That is more little sauce pans that I own. Heck it is more burners than I have on my stove.

I had heard of people saying they just put dried beans in their jars and can them that way. I tried to find that, but didn't. I did find that you can soak the beans for the given amount of time and then can them. You fill the jar with a scant third full with soaked beans and then add boiling water with a 1" headspace. The problem that can cause is different beans have differing dryness and will absorb different amounts of water. Some people using this method have ended up with the liquid gone and the beans still dry on the top layer. Now I'm using home grown beans so you might be able to tell where this is going. Home grown beans are not the dried out little things you can buy in the store. When I cook with beans a recipe will say cook the beans for two hours. Well for me it is more like 30 minutes to an hour to make the beans soft.

I did use the last of the 2011 beans. So you might expect they were closer to those dried out little store beans. Well you would be wrong. I used the soaking method where you bring the beans to a boil and let sit for an hour. (Due to total lack of planning, I did want to try it by soaking overnight, but it was a rainy day and my pressure canner had already been brought up from the basement, so they were damn well getting canned that day. I had to use the top of my double boiler to get enough pans to boil the beans in.) From the amount of dried beans I had I expected 6-7 jars. I put 8 in the dishwasher as you never want to run out. As I was putting the beans in I kept thinking the beans were never going to expand to fill the jar. After eight of the jars were filled I needed four more. Luckily I had washed my new jars recently so they were clean. I heated them up by putting hot water from the faucet so they would at least be hottish when I poured boiling water in them. I don't want to crack my jars. In the end I filled up 12 jars, about twice what I thought I would have needed from the quantity of beans.

Yup. I should have listened to that little voice in my head that was telling me I didn't have enough beans in the jar. Though the amount was a total failure, none of the lids failed to seal. So at least that was a success.

Mexican Pinto, Ottawa Cranberry, Apache Red, Cherokee Trail of Tears

Aren't they almost as pretty as the pickled onions I made two weeks ago? Jars should always be photographed with the morning light shinning through them. I get these photos through pure serendipity, not planning. I put the jars in the same spot to cool every time. I leave them there overnight. Then in the morning the light is streaming through the kitchen window. I never think to photograph them that way beforehand. I have photos of them from yesterday that are boring bean photos. Add morning light and you get such beauty. I felt sad about putting them in the pantry.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spring Spinach

Yes I know it is fall, but the spinach that I planted on September 19th, will be overwintered and be the first greens out of my garden come spring. I usually plant earlier, but the bed still had sweet potatoes. I still think it will be big enough to survive the winter. Right now they have their first set of true leaves. Hopefully they will get a few more before the ground freezes.

Of course they won't survive if they are covered in weeds, so MondayI went out and weeded the whole bed. The weeds are all from my compost that I added, except the morning glory weeds. They were dropped there by the morning glories that shared the bed with the sweet potatoes. My compost always has lots of weeds. Most of them are edible. Dill is by far the most common weed. Second comes cilantro. I also always end up with some borage and squash seedlings. And for some reason there is always nightshade seedlings. I don't let nightshade grow in the garden at all, but it is a common weed in the neighborhood. I always wonder how I get that many seeds in my garden since it never ever goes to seed here. It must be the birds.

It took a while to get the whole bed weeded out, but it was a nice sunny time and I was very happy to get out into the garden. I'd been stuck flat on my back for a part of last week when I hurt my neck. Thank goodness it didn't last too long. I was going stir crazy.

I decided to remove the row cover for a while (hence the sticks to keep the cats out). Maybe permanently. Some of the spots without spinach was because of damping off. I think the 80F day we had on Saturday confused everything and weakened the plants. I never intended to leave the row cover on all winter, but I do like to keep the leaf miners off when the plants are young. I'm guessing the leaf miners are long gone by now. Usually they attack in September, but not October.

And speaking of row covers, I'm wondering if it is time to take the row covers off the carrots now. I'd love the row cover off to give the carrots a bit more light to size up before the frosts come. I want the carrots to see a frost or two before I lift them for the winter. It will make them sweeter. Usually in Massachusetts the carrot flies last through September. We normally have two hatchings, May-June and August-September but we don't have a third hatching here and October is usually safe. But has the weather been messed up enough this year that we will see another hatching in October? It is so hard to know. The insect pests have been about three weeks early this year, so we might have time for a third. Oh the dilemmas.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Harvest Monday, October 8th, 2012

The week started out with a pretty basket of beans and peas that were buried under the other things, Chinese cabbage, Japanese turnips, zucchini, and the first choy sum. I also picked a cantaloupe, but it was never put in the tally since I'm pretty sure it never ripened right. The plant was long dead before it even came close.

I'm just shocked by this year. I've never seen tomatoes in October before except little cherry tomatoes. As usual they all went over to my townhouse mates.

Lots of kale got thinned out. It has to be washed well now as it has a case of aphids. Maybe a frost will come through and kill them all.

Carrots! I finally have fresh carrots again. They aren't quite full size, but they don't have nematodes like the spring carrots so they are growing well. I planted them after the brassicas instead of after the tomatoes this time. That works much better. Also they were grown under a row cover because last year the fall carrots were riddled with carrot fly. This time they are all pristine.

My fruit tally moved by just a tiny bit. I made some rhubarb strawberry crisp. I forgot to take photos of the rhubarb, so took one of the crisp itself. Oh it was good. I've been told the red varieties of rhubarb get stringy starting in the summer, but the green ones stay good all year round. I guess that is a good reason to stick to green. This plant grew way too big last year and blocked the air conditioner (not allowed). I figure if I don't replace it I'll have to keep it pulled constantly to keep it smaller. If I can't keep up, I'll replace it with a smaller red one.

You wouldn't know the rhubarb was green from this dessert since it had my frozen strawberries in it. I was trying to get a version that was fairly low sugar. I tried 1/4 c of sugar with 1 c of rhubarb and 1 c of strawberries. I think I can go lower. I'll try half that much next time. I also used cornstarch to thicken it, but didn't like the gummy quality, so next time I'll go with flour. The taste was perfect though. I love the mix of strawberries and rhubarb. I think rhubarb really adds the right sour touch. Maybe next year my jam will be a mix of strawberry and rhubarb instead of just strawberry.

  • Beans 3.13
  • Broccoli 0.16
  • Carrots 1.11 lbs
  • Cucurbit 2.22 lbs
  • Greens 4.19 lbs
  • Peas 0.36 lbs
  • Turnips 0.19 lbs
  • Tomatoes 3.21 lbs
  • Weekly total 14.57 lbs
  • Yearly total 578.43 lbs
  • Tally $1080.19

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.