Friday, November 24

24 November - A glorious 'black Friday'

Since I do not partake in the madness at retail locations today, we spent the morning preparing a new flowerbed for next year.

This is next to the garden, on the east side, and will be a perennial bed, mostly. (also a place to toss rocks that are found in the vegetable garden) The bed is about 8' wide at the center, and tapers off at each side, with about 6" of dirt in the front section and 10" in the rear section. If I run short of time to plan flowers, this will be a gourd or squash bed next year.

23 November - Happy Thanksgiving Pumpkin Bread

Or maybe pumpkin muffins.... either way, the pumpkins were a success. One of the relatives actually baked and mashed the pumpkin for pies, I'm not so adventurous, and went with the canned variety. (also, I found myself beginning the Thanksgiving baking the morning of, and was told very late in the process that I'd need to make an emergency apple pie - nobody was bringing the apple pie!)

Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg, ground
1/4 teaspoon Cloves, ground
1/4 teaspoon Ginger, ground

1/2 Cup Butter
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Pumpkin, prepared
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 Eggs

1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Sift dry ingredients.
Cream butter & sugar. Add eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla, blend well. Add dry ingredients to mixture. Stir in Chocolate Chips.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan or muffin tin. Bake loaves at 350°F for 1 hour, muffins at 400°F for 20 minutes.

Bread is done when toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I have omitted half the sugar with no ill effects.

Edit: G'ma liked the muffins, so they MUST be good!

Sunday, November 12

11 November, A month off

Well folks, I've been traveling a bit so I didn't get any posts in for a few weeks now. For that matter I didn't get any work done either.

But we did have a somewhat surprise "thunder-snow" Friday night, dumped about 4" of the stuff on us. The carrots and parsnips are buried. If the weather dries up a bit, or freezes the ground just a bit, I can go back out and pick some. But as it stands, there's way too much mud to be traipsing about in the garden.


Saturday, October 21

14 October - Hard Frost

Also known as "Killing Frost". We had snow on the 11th, and a very hard frost to go along with it. Some of these tomatoes are solid ice (I probably could have saved a couple by just throwing them into the freezer, but I didn't bother).

This is the labor-intensive time in the garden. Every dry day is another day to work on the general cleanup of debris from the season. As I've learned through making the wrong decisions - clean up all rotting tomatoes! The compost piles have been turned, and a new pile with this year's garden debris takes up an entire bin.

When we have several dry days in a row, I'll attempt to rake and shred leaves to use as winter mulch for carrots and parsnips. I should have enough carrots to last several months, and more than enough parsnips for the winter.

The pumpkins turned out a hit - I had 9 pumpkins of respectable size from the 2 vines. Most are ending up as halloween decorations, with some going to the relatives for jack-o-lanterns.


Tuesday, September 19

19 September - Light frost tonight?

Weather says it's going to be 36°F tonight. That means, in my area with a strong west wind, my garden may or may not freeze. Not hard, but it might kill off the basil.

Tomatoes were neglected this weekend, and most are rotting off the vines, which have begun to shrivel. Such a shame to lose all that fruit.

The cucumbers have begun a second crop, and the carrots are wonderful. The photo below is the most perfect carrot I've ever grown. It's about 6" long and was very sweet (I had a carrot for lunch... well not just a carrot)

Carrot and Cucumber

Friday, September 8

8 September - flowers

The Dianthus are blooming nicely. I didn't expect muticolored flowers on the same plant, but I have whites, pinks and reds all blooming. If I kept the seeds properly labeled, these are perennial plants, and will be ready to divide in a few years. If I didn't keep the seeds labeled correctly, they'll die off, but hopefully re-seed themselves.

The marigolds are also in full bloom. This bee was happily inspecting the flowers & in no rush to fly off. Marigolds make a great filler plant, to border areas that aren't very well established, and to provide color and distraction from unkempt beds. I hope that front electrical box area takes off next year, and the marigolds will no longer be necessary.

Thursday, September 7

7 September - Tomatoes

Tomatoes are ripening rapidly!

I've been picking them every other day, and have already picked about 20-30 pounds of ripe paste tomatoes. I'm starting to get a few beefsteak ripening, and tons of cherry tomatoes (I'm letting most of the cherry tomatoes rot on the vine, I can't keep up and we don't eat them fast enough). Two Oxheart tomatoes ripened yesterday, I'm going to plant more next year, those were very tasty and a good size. Plus, they didn't have any of the blemishes the others had.

So far, I've made 4 pints of sauce, with another batch going right now. After running the tomatoes through a food mill to extract the pulp, they go into the crockpot to reduce. I typically let them reduce to half their original volume (a good number, I think) and then either freeze or can. This year, I'm hoping to can most of them. According to the Ball Blue Book, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (bottled) and a pint of tomato sauce can be canned safely in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes. That's the plan!

Green beans are also ready. Here's about 2 pounds. I'm going to have to start abandoning them on neighbors' stoops to get rid of them. "Please take care of these beans."


Sunday, September 3

3 September - Labor Day Weekend

Tomatoes are ripening, I've picked 20-30 pounds already. I have 5 pints of diced tomatoes in the freezer. Another 8 pounds went to this batch of salsa (store-bought flavoring packet from Ball, tomatoes, cider vinegar). We had a taco-enchilada dinner tonight with the leftover salsa, it's pretty runny, but would make a wicked bloody-mary mixer.

This turned out pretty thin, I used the food mill to process half the tomatoes, and it made them into mush, the others were diced by hand. I think next time I'll have to use a food processor or chop them all by hand.

The mint has recovered from it's shearing and then some. I'm considering a new home for my mint plants, but have to wait until some other work is done. I'm thinking of taking each of my mints, and creating a mint-only garden, with the plants sunk into tubs into the ground, mulched around, and all within a raised bed, to create a little mint island in my back yard. Maybe that will keep them under control? Doubt it.

Pumpkins are ripening. I've found four now, all of pretty decent size. I have a recipe for pumpkin bread that I think I'll make into muffins, and another for pumpkin soup, which sounds interesting, but I'm not so sure about. When they're ready & ripe, I'll post the reviews of the recipes.

I also need to save one of the pumpkins for our jack-o-lantern this year!

These are the second crop of "Aunt Jean's Pole Bean", which make a great dried bean for chili in the winter. I'm letting this whole crop go dry, and I should get a few cups of beans after they're shelled. The other beans I have are still going strong, so I'm picking a handful daily to keep them from going to seed. In a couple weeks, I'll let those dry as well to provide my seeds for next year's crop.

Elderberries are quite ripe. When they ripen, the umbrella-shaped clusters hang down. I haven't picked any yet, I might pass on the jam this year, seeing as I have a freezer full of strawberry-blueberry jam from July.

The apples are nearly ripe. I found one this week that looks like a deer munched on it, but only half eaten - must not have liked it!

We don't spray our trees, so there's some leaf-miner sort of damage going on.

The fall crop of Oregon Sugar Pod peas is about 4" tall. We've had some goofy weather with rain for weeks, then dry for weeks, so I'm not sure if they'll produce peas before the frost, but we have about 4 weeks until the first hard frost, and a couple more if I get out the row covers.

I hope you're enjoying the harvest as I am.


Monday, August 28

28 August - Thief!

Well, so much for starchy corn deterring the rodents. I believe my crop of "Painted Mountain" fell victim to the raccoon variety of criminal. You can see in the photo how the stalks are leaning a bit, each ear has been carefully peeled open, and stripped of kernels! I'd need to plant an acre of corn to get three measly ears for my fall decorations. At least the pumpkins are still intact (for now), I counted three of a respectable size, and two others.


Wednesday, August 16

16 August - Harvest


I've picked most of the onions. Three went to seed before I could pick them (I'll harvest the seed and see what it does) A handful were soggy and rotting, those went into the compost bin. The remainder you see here on the deck, waiting to dry tomorrow in the sun. From the volume in the garden cart, I had about 4.5 bushels including greens. This is from 300 sets. Somewhere in there is a "White Lisbon Bunch Onion" grown from seed, but I mixed it in foolishly.

I may have to make a batch of French onion soup in the near future. Somewhere I have a freezer recipe for it.

I've got a few flowers on my carnations, they're growing well for the first year from seed. In the background you can see some phlox.

Maltese Cross
Lychnis chalcedonica
An orange-red perennial flower for full sun. Attractive to bees and butterflies. This is the first blooms on mine started from seed this year. Supposedly one can save the seedheads and store seed to propagate, or divide a mature rootball. I really like the look of these delicate flowers amid my rudbeckia.

Two apples were picked for a trial of ripeness. They're still a bit underripe, but we're getting concerned about the branch being damaged from the weight.

The second apple tree didn't have any fruit. The third had tent caterpillars, and lost some branches.

The peach has been picked and eaten. The skin was rather thick, but the size was very near to a small-ish store peach. It was a little over-ripe (you can see the blemish at the blossom end, the little dark spot is an ant-made hole) It was sweet and juicy. I look forward to more next year, but I'll definitely keep an eye out sooner so they don't become bug food!

Thursday, July 27

23 July

C'mon carrots....FOCUS! grr... some photo trouble with this, but it's my carrot patch & I have no other photos of it, so you're stuck with a blurry carrot-shot. Just squint a bit and you can see them, and maybe one of the celebrity babies hiding in there somewhere, too.

There will be no shortage of onions this year. Many of the bulbs are breaking the surface of the soil, I'll have to plant them deeper next year. Not bad for $3 worth of onion sets back in spring.

Purple peppers are the only fruiting pepper plants. I'm not entirely sure why, but the rest of the peppers seem to have gotten some shock being planted in the garden (maybe the store hadn't put them in direct sunlight?) These peppers will turn green in cooking, but make a really neat color addition to stir-frys (stays purple if you cook lightly), and salads.

One of the cucumber plants is producing. The others seem to have died a slow and painful death. I don't see many flowers on this one, either, but it's still early. I should plant some dill in the open space beyond, for a nice cucumber-tomato salad next month.

Green tomatoes abound. Even after the massive cutting I gave the tomato plants last week. I guess it really is true that they grow better if kept pruned a bit. These are San Marzano paste tomatoes, they grow about 1.5" diameter, and 3-4" long, have a thick meat, and a hollow center with little water. The pulp makes a fine tomato paste. I split the skins in boiling water, then quarter the tomatoes (picking out bad ones), and send them through the food mill. The pulp and juice spend several hours in a crock-pot to reduce to a nice sauce. I then freeze the sauce for winter. This year, I'm going to attempt canning the sauce / paste. We'll see how it goes.

Beans are growing well, and starting to produce. I've picked a few dinners worth already, and they've only just begun to produce. The beans are very tender still, 3-4" long, and just barely formed within the shells. All the beans I have can be eaten green or dry, I try to save some each year as seed for the following year.

The pumpkins!
The vine is getting huge, taking over just about all the groundspace between the rows of corn. Someone told me growing squash, corn, and beans together was a Native American idea - called the "Three Sisters".

Wikipedia confirms the story, and adds the three are companion plants -the squash chokes out weeds, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil to fertilize, and thee corn provides structure for the beans.

I haven't added the beans to the mix, but pumpkins and corn seem to be symbiotic. It's worth a try next year.

Parsnips are growing well. I've only gotten a few rows this year, they didn't germinate well from the old seed, but I'll have enough for stews and soups occasionally this winter. Come fall, after a hard frost, I'll mulch in the parsnips with a blanket of chipped leaves. Then, I'll mark their location with some flags, so I can find them in the snow to dig. Why bother storing them in the house when the garden does the job just as well?


Tuesday, July 4

4 July - Happy independence Day

The front garden, with Black-Eyed Susans and Rudibeckia in full bloom. Also, the grasses and hydrangea aren't looking quite so sad anymore. By next year, the coneflower and daisies should fill-out some, and the whole area will look much better.

We have a Peach!

The tomatoes, first crop of peas, and onions can all be seen here. The mass of white flowers was the radish crop that went to seed (oops). I've since picked and composted the remaining radishes, let's hope I'm not picking them next year as well. In another week I should have the first snow peas (mine are a bit late this year), and turnips - to be boiled with a sour apple and served with brown sugar, very good!

The potatoes have filled their bin to the top, and are looking healthy. These are Yukon Gold potatoes from the store that sprouted before I could eat them. The hope is to get enough to eat some, and mash & freeze some. The Yukon Gold don't need as much butter as a Russet does, they tend to have more flavor initially.

And the corn is knee-high by the 4th of July. It should be a good crop this year. It is "Painted Mountain" an open-pollinated variety of flour corn that has multicolored ears for fall decoration. I might get ambitious and try to grind the corn flour, but I'd need to borrow a grain mill. This corn is starchier than most, so I'm not sure how it would bake.

"These are MY Elderberry bushes... "

The dog usually makes a nest in the shade beneath the Elderberries. All the white blooms you see are the bushes, and this is only about 1/8th of all the bushes on the lot. In another six weeks, the birds will be going crazy gorging themselves on the berries, while I try to fight them off to pick a few quarts for jam (and a friend picks bushels for wine).

The rock wall is filling in - you can see all the strawberries on the right side of this photo. The creeping thyme along the staircase is also covering well. I seem to have gotten two varieties, a pink flowered one and a white flowered. The white is slightly smaller and lower-growing, so I'll try to encourage that style, but the pink would do well as a grass substitute elsewhere, maybe in the garden path?

The herb garden side of the wall is also growing. The mint (center, top in the photo) is trying it's hardest to grow out of that container, I've given it a few good clippings to keep it cut back, but still it is going crazy. The sage, horehound, and oregano have all come back, and the chives never really left. I still need to get a pot of parsley well established and coming back each year.

Thursday, June 29

18 June - ok I've been busy

Yeah, I forgot to post this page.

The black-eyed susans are just starting to bloom, as seen to the right. Quite lovely, and I might have enough to pick a bouquet on the 4th of July.

As you can see, the garden is nearly all planted, and most of the trellises are up.

The strawberries are blooming, these brilliant pink flowers are "Lipstick" but they usually don't set fruit. I've also added some wild strawberries this year to the area, hopefully I'll get a handfull of those teeny berries.

Monday, May 29

29 May - Memorial Day weekend

Onions (left) and root crops (right) are growing very well with all the rain we've had. The radishes are closest to the grassy path, should be ready to pick in another week or two. The turnips will be picked twice, a small crop at golfball size to give room for the rest, then the remainder of full-sized roots. The last couple days have been 90-degrees plus, so the sprinkler saved these guys from some wilt. Thankfully, the next week should stay below 80.

Beans have sprouted!
And Tomatoes have been planted (this is one of 18 plants!). If all goes well, a friend and I will attempt to can tomatoes this year. The home-made tomato sauce is well worth the trouble of making it, and doesn't taste anything close to that coming from a grocery store can.

The pole bean teepee. This is for short beans, 4 ft tall only, and is very simple to make.
Materials - misc. end of 2" x 4" or other board (I used a 2x6), and four 1"x2"x8'.
Cut the 1x2's in half, and drill a hole in the end of each, about 1" from the edge. Use nails to attach the 1x2's to the scrap of board, leaving enough room for them to rotate. The poles can pivot and collapse for storage. I sunk the teepee about 2" into the ground to help support it in the heavy winds we have here.

A close-up of the top of the teepee, showing how the posts are staggered around the board .

Here is the start of the new front bed, you can see the various grasses as well as daisies, coneflower, and black-eyed susan. Not much to look at now, but eventually the plants will grow into their bed and have a little more to show off. The hydrangea is front and center, and the peach tree is just out of the photo to the right.

Here's the electrical box bed that I've nearly completed planting. The daylilies are along the outer edge of the bed, as well as a pompom daisy (a gift), and some rock cress. Along the inner (left) edge are columbine of several varieties. I expect this bed to take a few years to have a real show. Now, if I can just kill off the rest of the weeds...

The eyesore - some thistles that have survived the first roundup treatment.

The herb garden in the rock wall is doing very well. Clockwise, from the top, center are Chives, Mint (in a pot set into the ground), creeping Thyme, Oregano, Horehound, and Sage. The Basil and misc. varieties of mints are still too small to be transplanted.

The whole wall is doing well, and I expect to put some of the creeping thyme in other spots, such as the weed patch above!

So these are the little twerps waking me up with the sunrise! A nest of robins just below my bedroom window.