Showing posts from September, 2013

Flower Friday: September 27, 2013

Cool nighttime temperatures are definitely causing a slow-down in the flower department. I barely even have any zinnias left, and that's kind of all we've got for this month. Limping our way towards frost, at least as far as unprotected annuals are concerned ...

Zinnias and calendula.

Zinnias, blanket flower, echinacea, calendula, and chrysanthemum. 

Winter Food Storage

It's always been on our radar screen to get a chest freezer to keep our harvest over the winter, and this year we finally pulled the trigger on it:

This is a little 5.1 cubic foot freezer we got at Sears on sale, and it really should be plenty big enough, since we don't hunt or buy meat in mass quantities. Plus it fit in my teeny-tiny car to bring home from tax-free New Hampshire, so that's a plus.
As you can see, this is in the basement, where it is one half of our winter food stores. (The other half are canned goods and root vegetables, which I'll fill you in on another time.) Kirk thought we should keep an inventory, which is the paper on the lid:

Lots of salsa there, because it tastes about 100 times better frozen than canned (vinegar just ruins it, I think). I'm hoping to add more before frost. Salsas, peach puree, swiss chard, and ratatouille are in square 1-quart boxes, while green beans are in 1-gallon freezer bags. Those things are in the bottom, surround…

Too Many Tomatoes?

I never thought I'd say it, but I think we may have planted too many tomatoes. 
For the record, this year we planted 48 tomato plants. This is down from 55 last year, but it still may be a wee bit more than we need.
Ok, ok. I know that sounds like an absolutely insane amount of tomatoes. But remember, we don't buy any vegetables at the store. That means that we're planting a year's worth of tomatoes when we start those seeds in the middle of winter. 
Although we only can eat them fresh for about two months of the year, we can sauce, dry them, and make some dishesto freeze to get us through the other ten months of the year. It can be a little hard to judge how much of something you're going to eat over such a big span of time, but going into our second winter of the No Buying Veggies Challenge lets us use what we learned last year.
For example, last year we canned 20 quarts of tomato sauce, plus a few extra quarts of whole tomatoes.  Turns out that we only used 16 …

A Handful of Grapes

This year's grape harvest:

These are our Concords. Not all of of vines are bearing yet, but the Concords looked like they were going to do pretty well this year. But as September arrived, it became clear that we had a problem:

See how we're missing a lot of grapes? They are on the ground, shriveled up. A bunch of the ones that are left have shriveled also. The handful of good ones in the first photo were about our whole harvest. 
(I should note that they were completely delicious — sweet and so grapey that I finally understand what the flavor "purple" in medicine and candy is based on. Concord grapes have really excellent flavor. These plants have outdone all our others in vigor of growth this year also.)
All of our grapes that are bearing are having a problem with the shriveled, unevenly-ripening fruit, and their leaves are turning brown and dying back as well:

As near as I can tell, the problem here is black rot. This is a fungus that spreads in warm, wet wea…

Flower Friday: September 20, 2013

I have to admit, there's not much left in the cutting garden. Next year I will definitely need to plan better to have some more perennials and annuals that last and/or open for the first time in the fall. And I want some deep purple, all — the last I had of that color was done months ago. What we have here are just more riffs on the same theme of all of September: snapdragons and zinnias. 

Snapdragons, blanketflower, zinnias, and yarrow.

Zinnias and calendula.


Our young orchard has four apple trees in it, and each one has borne a bit of fruit this year. Our best apples for eating fresh are ready right now:

The bright red ones to the right are Galas; the purplish-red ones with green undertones are Macouns
Both are delicious, with good texture and crunch. Galas strike me as sweeter, while Macouns are somewhat more tart, with an almost spicy tang to their skins (which of course must be eaten — who peels an apple for lunch?). I love, love, love them.
We only had a half dozen Macouns this year, and it's a somewhat finicky apple to grow, so we might never have huge crops. It's still worth it, though — if you can find them anywhere this fall, snatch up a big basket and eat them up while you can!
Our Gala tree, as you can see, is doing quite well this year. I suspect that many of our apples ripened kind of early (it's only mid-September, after all, and we've been picking them here and there since the end of August) because of ins…

Roasted Red Peppers

Despite the cool temperatures throughout most of August, we have red bell peppers!

The long ones are "Valencia" and the more square ones (near the top of the photo) are "Ace," a variety we chose specifically because it will ripen to from green to red in a shorter growing season (which is what we have here in Massachusetts). It's exciting that so many of our Valencia peppers have gone red as well! There are still plenty of green ones outside, so we should be in a good way with both red and green bell peppers from now until frost.
Last year we brought in a ton of peppers before the first frost, and they kept for several weeks on the counter — and even ripened to red while they sat. If we have that kind of luck again, we should have fresh peppers to eat through November.
Still, it would be really nice to have peppers in the winter, so we decided to roast these red ones so we could freeze them. Since we had burgers on the grill on Sunday, we thought fire-roasted p…

The Pear Harvest

While not as impressive as our massive peach harvest, our first-ever pear harvest is in the books:

That's all of it — just five Anjou pears. That may not seem like much, but pear trees typically take several years before they bear fruit, so the fact that we have any pears at all yet is pretty exciting. I also pollinated these myself with a paint brush back in the spring, since our other pear tree didn't bloom this year. 
The pears aren't ready to eat yet, but they seemed ready to harvest because they pulled easily off of the tree. Pears have a two-part ripening process: first you have to chill them, then you have to allow them to ripen at room temperature before you want to use them. The best information I found was from Oregon State, and according to them, Anjou pears should be chilled for a minimum of two to six weeks, then ripened at room temperature for another week to ten days. 
I put ours in the crisper drawer of our fridge, and set it for high humidity, which was r…

Flower Friday: September 13, 2013

It's hot, and the 100-degree high in the garden on Wednesday may have confused our flowers. There are lots of dried-out zinnias and marigolds to be found out there, but I managed to find some good ones anyway this week. 

Zinnia and yarrow.

Tiegan's birthday present wrapped with zinnia and cosmos.

Snapdragons, echinacea (flowers and seed heads), and zinnia.

Hosta leaves and zinnias.

Rose and hosta leaf.

The Bean House Club

Several weeks ago, I overheard the kids talking about what kind of rules they should make for something called "The Bean House Club." I'm not sure what they decided on, or how often they played there, but here are some photos of the bean house in high summer:

As you can see, the pole beans (mostly Cherokee Trail of Tears, but also some Kentucky Wonder) had no trouble creating the shady bower we imagined when we put up the PVC frames back in June. You can also see that the pumpkins and squash planted around the outside of the bean house more than filled in their allotted space as well. In fact, we had a few pumpkin vines start climbing the bean house frame.

The photo above is a side view. The doorway is to the left — imagine the entrance to an igloo, and that's kind of the shape. There is also ferny, floppy asparagus to the left, and this turned out to be a very jungle-like quadrant this year. I think you had to be a member of the club to know just how to navigate th…

Giving It Away

We have a lot, especially this time of year, when there are literally (literal literally, not figurative literally) piles of tomatoes and cucumbers in the kitchen waiting for us to preserve them, plus lots of other fruits and veggies. 
That kind of bounty allows us to eat really well. To wit, yesterday's lunch:

That's a ploughman's plate of strawberries, crackers, mustard, cheddar, blue cheese, pickled beets, sweet gherkins, and a curry sour spear
And then dinner:

Cucumber and tomato salad dressed with pickled beets and onions, sage-roasted potatoes (first of the fall harvest! freshly dug yesterday!), and Swedish meatballs with gravy.
Yum, yum, yum.
Because we have so much, we are now in a position to give a bunch away. We love giving baskets to friends who appreciate produce, and bartering tomatillos for sausage buns at the Buttermilk Bakery yesterday was awesome. But we were psyched today to make up a couple grocery bags of produce to donate to the new food pantry spo…

Two Tomato-licious Lunches

I'm trying to savor my very last days of summer vacation this weekend — a break that was extended into the first week of September this year, thanks to Rosh Hashanah. This past Thursday and Friday I was able to enjoy some peace and quiet around the house while the kids were at school (their classes started — gasp! — before Labor Day this year). I used the time to dry some tomatoes, for starters:

Once these were in the oven (directions to make them are here), I celebrated by eating up the remaining sundried tomatoes from last year's supply. We had been using them sparingly throughout the spring to ensure that they lasted until we had tomatoes again. Now that day is here, so here's a sundried lunch:

This sandwich is sundried tomato and goat cheese on roasted garlic ciabatta. (The bakery at Market Basket is not too shabby!) The sandwich (which gets put together to eat, of course) is dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh basil, and fresh rosemary.
The next day I went wi…

Flower Friday: September 6, 2013

This is my last Friday of summer — from here on out it's work, work, work, with gardening squeezed in between getting home and sunset and chauffeuring kids around. I'll try to keep Flower Friday going through frost, but it could be a challenge. 

Zinnias and echinacea.

Snapdragon, zinnia, echinacea.

Echinacea and artemisia "Silver King."

Gazpacho Dorado

In addition to all the regular red tomatoes we've grown in the past, this year we planted an heirloom Ukrainian yellow variety, the seeds of which we picked up at Strawbery Banke last fall. Although they took a while to fruit, they ended up being delicious — meaty, and not as acidic as tomatoes are apt to be. I think of it as a great tomato for people who think they don't like tomatoes. (Although I cannot personally understand such an aversion, I hear that it does indeed exist among some small, sad portion of the population.)
They are also gorgeous:

Most of our red tomatoes get sauced or salsa'd, so I thought I'd use some of the yellow ones for gazpacho to save the red for those other uses. Also involved are an onion, a clove of garlic, a small slicing cucumber, and a small green pepper.
This is a traditional Spanish-type of gazpacho, meaning it is pureed and has bread, and is not a cucumber-y mild salsa (though those are nice, too). Since this one is yellow, I'm …

Aerial View: September 2, 2013

By September, we have some empty spots in the garden as some crops have already come and gone for the season. Corn and onions are history, and you can see our pumpkins and beans starting to die back as they cure on the vines. Also, there's some new fencing and row covers to protect newer plantings — or at least things the local groundhog has deemed tasty.

The swingset quadrant.

The patio quadrant.

The driveway quadrant.

The workshop quadrant.