Showing posts from September, 2012

Asleep on the Job

So today this happened:

Poor Fletch has been pretty bored stuck on the porch on this very rainy weekend — and probably lonely too, since we were inside most of the time. Oh, and hungry, since he blew through his dry food out in the workshop. We're starting to think he's sharing with his girlfriend, who hangs out with him in the driveway before dawn on nice days. Or maybe that a skunk is sneaking in to get some. Anyway, he looks cute and cozy and all, but while he was snoozing, this happened:

I'm assuming a squirrel did it, because what other animal out there makes such a giant goddamn mess? It shredded up the stem of one of our pie pumpkins, which we had left out to cure on the warm bricks. This doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but take a closer look:

Having the stem ripped off has exposed some of the flesh of our pumpkin — you can see the scratches in the skin at the top. That means that this pumpkin won't keep until Thanksgiving now, unless we process it. W…

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!

Our strawberries are still going strong, even though we are officially into shorter days and cooler nights:

They are smaller on average now, but they're still red and tasty. 
Something else that's red and tasty? Our rhubarb:

This picture was taken shortly after our rhubarb was planted back in the spring, but it is much, much bigger now. We technically weren't supposed to harvest any this year, but it did really well this season, and it's still putting up stalks. We figured that the few that we cut for our dessert wouldn't make a difference this late in the season, since in a few weeks it will all die back anyway.
So we saved a strawberries for a week (two pints!), pulled eight or 10 stalks of rhubarb (a pound!), and ended up with this: 

Strawberry rhubarb pie is my favorite! Well, one of my favorites. I do love pie. I know it's traditionally a spring or early summer treat, but in this year of getting perennial plants established, our harvest came in the fall. …

Double the Eggs, Double the Fun!

Exciting discovery today! While someone (Sally, the chicken on the far right) still insists on laying eggs on the floor of the coop, today Kirk found a second egg in a nesting box!

The new egg is also brown, so it is most likely from Dolley, the chicken second from the right. The other two are araucana crosses, so they should lay blue or green eggs. Also, Dolley just looks like she was ready to start laying — we caught her squatting for no reason a lot lately, and she's just more rounded out now. And Dolley is the smartest chicken (in my opinion), so I'm not surprised that she would be the one who got the whole laying-eggs-in-the-box thing down right away. 

We've got a dozen eggs now! And with two birds laying, we should be able to eat them whenever we want without worrying about saving up for recipes from now on.

Fall Pumpkins

It looks like we will have three pie pumpkins from the garden this year. That's not as many as we had hoped for, but it's more than we've ever had before. It's also more than we'll see of our butternut squash, of which we have zero. I think the blossoms of those kept getting eaten, so we never managed to set fruit until recently, and it's way too late for them to mature into anything edible.
But our pumpkins are doing well, and are each at a different stage of maturity, which makes for a nice photo essay on their development.

This one is the youngest, and as you can see, it's sized up, but still dark green. The orange is starting to come through, and I cleared away the sweet potato vine leaves so it could get more sun to help it ripen. (This is a rogue vine that jumped the path and ended up in the sweet potatoes. For most of the summer, we never even knew we had this third pumpkin.) Notice that the stem is also green and pliable — another important sign th…

Harvesting Potatoes

Our potato plants have finally all died back, and we dug the rest of them up:

All of these were our red potatoes. Earlier in the summer we harvested the white ones, because those plants died back more quickly. Some of them are double potatoes, with an older one that has sprouted a newer potato on top, connected like siamese twins. We brushed off the dirt and let them dry in the sun before packing them into paper bags and storing them in the basement. That should be just the right spot for them: cool, dark, and fairly humid. We're hoping they keep through the winter so we have veggies in the cold months.
Usually we eat a bunch of a harvest fresh right away, but most of these have gone into storage precisely because they should keep well. I'm not sure how far 10 to 15 pounds of potatoes is going to get us, and I suspect that we'll be planting a lot more next year. We'll also try to get them in a sunnier spot and monitor our hilling up system more closely — we didn't…

Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans

The pole beans we grew this year are Cherokee Trail of Tears, an heirloom variety of black bean that were, according to oral history, carried from North Carolina to Oklahoma during the forced relocation of the Cherokee tribe. They got off to a slow start for us early in the summer, but throughout August and September they've been producing really well:

As they ripen, the bean pods turn from green to this gorgeous purple color. This makes them much easier to find among the vines than regular green beans!
When I first opened a pod, I was surprised to see that the beans are actually purple instead of black, like tiny eggplants:

As they dry, the color darkens up a bit. We spread the pods out on the porch counter to air dry, which makes them much easier to shell. Once you sit around and shell a bunch of them, they pretty much look like a bowl full of shiny black beans:

The beans above are not the whole harvest. There are still some drying, still plenty on the vines (until frost, anywa…

Fire Roasted Dinner

Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah, so I had off from school, and Kirk took the day off of work. Our kids did have school in Newburyport, so we had a day all to ourselves. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are my favorite days of the year for this reason — and because September has some of the best weather New England has to offer, making for excellent al fresco dining and bike rides to the beach. Before all that, though, we took care of some things outside, including building a fire:

We still have lot of tomatoes. Lots. So Kirk built a wood fire and let it burn down so we could roast a bunch of the biggest ones. (The fire was also nice during the cold part of the early morning, too.) These were just cut in half, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and laid out over foil over the embers. The foil had some holes punched in to let smoke get to the tomatoes, too. Later Kirk added a couple bell peppers to the fire, and we were on our way to fire-roasted tomato soup for dinner: 

If you have the patience …

White Winter ... Potatoes

Temps have fallen, and comfort food is on the menu! Today Kirk dug up a plant's worth of potatoes and promptly mashed a bunch of them up for dinner:

These were red potatoes, as you can see if you look very closely at some bits of the skin that we like to leave on. We also had chicken (not from our garden, as Jonas was quick to point out!) and roasted rainbow carrots that I pulled today. 
This was a yummy fall dinner, but I had forgotten how monochromatic winter dinners are. Nothing but shades of white and tan (and the bit or red in that one carrot, but even those are also white and yellow).

These were the colors of our dessert, too:

This is an apple dumpling with some homemade vanilla bean ice cream and cider sauce. Click on the links to check out the recipes from America's Test Kitchen — this was soooooooo good. Looking forward to having our own apples and pears to keep making these in the future!

One Week Until Autumn

Summer is on its last legs, and we have just one weekend left to enjoy of it. It's a long weekend for me, since we don't have class on Rosh Hashanah — a perfect time to get in our gardening chores while it's still nice out. 
Some clean-up from the summer garden is already under way: Kirk pulled out a spent zucchini plant, as well as our pickling cukes and one of our tomatillos. I also yanked four Roma tomatoes that were blocking the sun from new lettuces. Last fruits were saved (including some green tomatoes — more on our plans for those later), and the rest is compost.
A lot of our work now is around our fall plantings — and all of the water, since I'm no longer irrigating summer plants. Here's what's starting to come into its own as cooler weather sets in:

The cold frame is in place, and seedlings of mache, mesclun and spinach are doing well. I filled in some gaps today, sowing our last seeds of 2012. The glass that is on the cold frame isn't for holding…

The Solution to Your Indian Restaurant Leftovers

Whenever we order Indian food, either in the restaurant or for takeout, we make sure that we have extra to eat the next day (and usually the day after that, as well). It makes for better leftovers than just about anything else you'd ever order in a restaurant. Sometimes, though, you have leftovers of the leftovers. Have you ever had half a container of just sauce left after you've eaten all the chicken or lamb or (my favorite to hear people order) vegetable balls?
Well, we're killing two birds of plenty with one stone here. A great way to use up extra okra and your leftover Indian sauce in just two easy steps:

1. Slice and sauté a bunch of okra. We used a combination of butter and peanut oil here, but whatever you've got will work.

2. Stir into takeout container of leftover sauce. 
Done. Going to have this over the last bit of leftover rice and call it a delicious lunch!

Attack Of The Giant Tomato!

Yesterday I picked the biggest tomato I have ever seen!

On the left is a perfectly average Moskvich tomato. On the right is a really, really big Rose tomato (an heirloom variety). Lots of our Rose tomatoes tended to be big this summer, but nothing like this. It weighed in at three pounds.
This picture also shows pretty clearly where Rose gets its name — its color before it ripens is pink, and when ripe is a really clear red (unlike the typical orangey tomato red of the one next to it). 
Anyway, Kirk made this into salsa, and just this one tomato gave us a full quart of salsa to freeze. That brings us to a gallon of red salsa in the freezer for winter, so I think we can stop now.

Homegrown Breakfast

Now that we have eggs, it's possible to have meals that are (almost) entirely homegrown, if one is so inclined. And this morning, I was. Here's what I gathered up for breakfast:

Ingredients here are green pepper, red onion, sun dried tomatoes, thyme, eggs, and a bit of goat cheese. (Full disclosure: the goat cheese, salt, and pepper are not from our garden. Although I could have made my omelet without them, I didn't want to. Once I remembered we had some goat cheese, I wanted to use it.)
Anyway, this is the first dish made with our first eggs, and they have nice, strong shells. I would say they are "medium” eggs, as opposed to large or extra-large. The yolks are about half the size of a large egg yolk, though. The rest of the volume is egg white, so my breakfast is probably a little more heart healthy than it otherwise would have been. The eggs should get up to size in the next couple weeks. 

I also added our smallest cantaloupe to my plate--we have about a half doze…

What To Do With A Perfectly Ripe Watermelon

We've been lucky this year, in our first watermelon patch attempt, to have several good-sized melons coming in. Here are two pretty close to each other:

They're a bit camouflaged in the leaves, and one is actually ripening on the bricks, as these vines spilled out of their beds. 
We learned our lesson from our over-eager picking of one of the melons way too early. This time we are waiting for a brown, dried tendril where the melon stem attaches to the vine, and also a shriveled or missing leaf at that junction. That's the real test.
Last weekend we were pretty sure we had a good one, so Kirk picked it during Tiegan's birthday party. A bit nerve-wracking with lots of eager guests, but he picked up a knife for the moment of truth:

Ta-da! A perfect watermelon! All the kids at the party were as excited as we were (it's pretty cool to pick up a watermelon out of the patch and eat it on the spot, you know). Although you can't really tell from the photo above, this i…

We Have Eggs!

For the past two days it has been raining, but today we had quite a nice afternoon, so I made the rounds outside to pull weeds, harvest fruit and veggies, and check on our animals. Inside the henhouse I saw this:

We have eggs! I ran to get the kids and my camera, and then we gathered them up. As you can probably tell from the photo above, the girls haven't figured out how to use their nesting boxes yet — these are on the floor beneath their roosting bar. And yes, that's poop next to them. And what I think might be some egg yolk of one that broke, or, more likely, was pecked at. Dolley pecked at one in my hand, and there are bits of shell visible on one in the photo below. We'll keep an eye on this now that we know they are laying — if they keep eating the eggs, it's a sign that they need more calcium in their diet.
I had a hunch that Sally would be the first to lay because she was the biggest and the first to fill out to look like a grown-up. Looks like I was right:


Flower Garden Long Shots

It has come to my attention that, although close-upsof flowers are pretty, it's sometimes hard to tell what our flower beds look like as a whole. So I went outside and took a few more photos to try to capture that. I'm not sure how successful I was--it's hard to show all the varying textures and tones of green from so far away. But at the very least, these should give you a sense of how it's all laid out.

The perennial border. To the left is the porch railing that is part of the front entrance to our house.

This is the corner of the border. It is just out of view in the photo above (on the right edge).

This part continues around that corner along the driveway and the four-season porch.

This is the same section of the border as shown in the previous photo, but taken from the opposite end at the top driveway. I was hoping to show a bit more detail by using the two different perspectives.

This is the far side (if your starting point is the three-season porch) of the cutt…

Our Veg Is Ready for a Closeup

Last Friday Kirk sent me a text to let me know that Jamie Oliver is working on a new cookbook and wanted to collect great pictures of garden vegetables from around the world to use in said cookbook. (Kirk knows this because he loves Jamie Oliver and follows him on Facebook. And YouTube.) So I sifted through our files and chose several photos to share. Maybe we'll get famous? Make a couple bucks? Meet Jamie Oliver? One of his editors has liked several of the photos I posted...
If nothing else comes of this, I finally got Instagram. You can follow the thousands of pictures posted to Jamie Oliver at #jamieveg. You can also follow our garden shots at #portpotager. Or you can just scroll down to see what I shared.

Late summer harvest.

An aerial view from atop the workshop, from the opposite direction of previous aerial view posts.


Bok choy.

One perfect radish.

Rainbow carrots.

Spring salad with nasturtium and borage blossoms.


Cherokee Trail of Tears beans (an he…