Monday, September 30, 2013

Harvest Monday

We have had the most beautiful first week of Autumn here in Connecticut. The trees are rapidly changing color and the temperatures have been perfect. It's been extremely dry though and the harvests are slowing way, way down.
 I don't have much to share this week. And for whatever insane reason, Blogger chose to put my pictures in sideways and I have no idea how to rotate them to the correct position. Big sigh here. I harvested two of the final three winter squashes. One is the only Kabocha squash I managed to grow and the other is a mystery hybrid, probably a mix of Waltham Butternut and Long Island Cheese. I'll be interested to see what the squash tastes like. I always plant all my various squash in one big bed and it never occurred to me that they might be cross pollinated to produce the odd mixed one. The final squash is a Long Island Cheese that will stay on the vine until the first frost is forecast.
In this second photo are my other harvests of the week. I am almost at the end of the tomatoes and harvesting them with just a pink blush to finish ripening indoors. As you can see, there are more beans, although the Red Noodles are just about finished. I got one final good sized Trombocino, more Hakurei turnips, a parsnip, a few French Breakfast radishes and teeny-tiny carrots, two peppers, one small eggplant, a small handful of dill and my one and only nicely sized watermelon. Alas, the watermelon was not ripe! At all! I tried my best to judge it by all the tricks I'd read about, but oh well, another year perhaps. And in the bowl are a variety of greens, a few lettuce leaves, arugula, tatsoi and swiss chard, enough for a salad.
Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions where you can go and see what other gardeners are bringing in this week!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Apple Season and Nature's Free Gift

One of the subtitles of my blog refers to frugal living, yet I've never written any posts on the subject. I'm not sure I have anything to add to the subject that hasn't been written about in countless blog posts, but frugality is a running theme to my life as a retiree. When my husband and I both retired early we were determined to do everything we could to keep the lifestyle we enjoy but to do it on a much smaller income, which meant learning to tighten the budget in every way we can without feeling deprived. The information I found online was so helpful to me and it's also what led me to discovering the world of blogging and the sharing of information online.
One of the hints I read and took to heart was never to waste things and never to pass up any offers of free edibles, so when at times a friend offers me, say, a bushel of peaches or apples I won't say no. And friends do offer, because as one person put it, "I know you'll do something with these" as opposed to their going to waste. Two years ago for instance, I was given a load of apples which made wonderful apple pie filling, but that source is dried up now since the friend that gave them has since acquired a farm-girl daughter-in-law who also likes to cook and can. And I was sorry about that because that apple pie filling was very handy throughout the year! But nature provides if you keep your eyes open and this is what I found:
 Are these not about the ugliest apples ever? They are scabby and misshapen and absolutely organic! They come from a very old apple tree that is growing behind a nineteenth century building on our church property. We use the building as a "mission house," that is, we let missionaries from far off places live there for free when they are in the States as a help to them. The building was once the town poor house in the days when such things existed so I'm pretty certain this apple tree is a nineteenth century tree too. The variety is nothing like any you'd find today. It seems like a kind of russet, is tart-sweet and the texture is a little different in a way I can't describe. I only know of one person who has ever bothered with these apples, a gal living in the mission house a few years ago who made a small batch of applesauce. So I decided to gather a bunch and see what I could do with them since nobody else seems to care about them.
 I made applesauce. Eleven pints of it! I'm a pretty experienced home canner, but I've never done homemade applesauce before and I've learned something the hard way. That stuff is like napalm! To bring it to the boil they want you to, it pops and blubs like hot lava and I have the burns to prove it. Now I know that next time I need to have oven gloves on and an extra long wooden spoon for stirring!
 And I made my apple pie filling, enough for ten pies. I freeze it in individual pie amounts that later can be thawed and thrown into a pie crust before baking. I also made a huge apple crisp, because we are a divided family here. I like apple pie. My spouse likes apple crisp.
 I also learned to really appreciate the amazing gizmo you see pictured above. A girlfriend lent it to me: a peeler-corer-slicer. Even with that helpful tool it took me about eleven hours to get all those apples peeled and prepped because none of them were truly round and all of them had spots that needed cutting out. But without it, I'd still be peeling and slicing and my hands would be crippled. I can foresee an unfrugal purchase in my future!
It was a good day two days' work to get all this done and I guess the point of this story is that there are some great gifts of nature out there, but it takes keeping your eyes open and it takes time and work! Still, it's a great feeling to have these done. There's no way I'll be making ten apple pies this year, but in the past the fillings have been great gifts for friends who are busy and appreciate a shortcut to a nice fresh apple pie themselves. There is more of nature's free gift on that tree, but I think I'm about appled out now and besides those burns need to heal!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Harvest Monday

I can't believe another week of September has gone by already! I had every intention to do another garden post between the Harvest Mondays but the days just flew. It has been a busy week. I actually went shopping twice. To the mall. Nowadays that seems like something out of a different life, but I needed a dress for a wedding we were to attend this weekend and boy, those aren't so easy to find these days! The Bible club for children that I administer at my church started up this week so I was running around preparing for that too. All I really got done garden-wise was harvesting and preparing and canning tomato sauce and a batch of salsa. The garden looks pretty lame but the harvests are still coming in.
 Here they are in all their glory: my eight butternut squashes and one buttercup. Four years ago after every single one of my winter squash plants died squashless, to paraphrase Scarlet O'Hara I said "As God is my witness, I WILL grow a winter squash!" Each year since there has been improvement. Yay! I actually grew nine butternuts this year, but the smallest broke off its stem and began to decay, so I cooked the good (and not quite ripe) part. Not only are these the most butternuts I've ever grown, but they are also the largest, so I'm quite pleased. I actually like the taste of buttercup squash better and the one in the photo is a beauty. I was able to grow three others which are a bit (or a lot) smaller. At the top left of the photo above the squashes are two honeydew melons. My melons all did very poorly, with only three getting to a usable size. These two weren't fully ripe, but still tasted good.
 My honeydews are so rare around here they are taking another bow in this pic! Above also are the first of my fall Hakurai turnips. They turned out beautiful and I still have a batch growing which will be picked this week. The bowl is full of arugula and as you can see I got one Lipstick pepper and a couple of the last cucumbers.
 Pretty close to the last eggplant, peppers and tomatoes were brought in this week too. Just when I think the Gold Marie Vining beans have had it they put out another batch of yellow beans for me. The Chinese Red Noodle beans are still coming in nicely and I'm still getting more green beans than we need.
 My scallions were another interplanting success. I planted them in spring between the early cabbage and they are looking very good now. On the plate you see two tiny watermelons. The vines were dead, so I picked them. They made two tasty mouthfuls. I have one small watermelon that actually has some size to it (maybe about the size of a duckpin bowling ball) and I'm anxious to pick it, but I think it's not quite ready. It'll be another first for this garden. Like winter squash, I have a long way to go to successful melon growing!
 There's still plenty of kale! The late summer bugs are doing a number on it though!
And lastly, more beans, beans, beans! That the Harvest Monday haul this time around! Be sure to head over to Daphne's Dandelions to see what gardeners all over the world are harvesting this week!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Harvest Monday Mid-September Edition

Although the garden is really winding down, there have been some good harvests this year and at the midpoint of September we have already harvested more than last September's total. My fall plantings are maturing at a very slow pace, so whatever we get out of them is questionable. There are rumblings of frost predictions for tomorrow night, but it is very unlikely to get that low here. Our first frost is usually in mid-October, so it would be quite a blow to get one a whole month early.
 I didn't take many photos this week. Not pictured are the 2 and 1/2 pounds of parsnips I pulled to thin the beds, because I posted that already last week. Some critter is grazing on the parsnip tops now, so I wonder how that will affect the growth of the other roots. I'd like to leave them in the ground until after the frost next month. Most of my harvest has been tomatoes as you can see from the two pictures here. I'm getting a great amount of kale both from the spring planted kale and now from my fall plantings. They've been the only really robust plants of the fall garden so far.
 It has been a terrible year for eggplant and peppers in my garden. The three eggplants pictured are very small and the few left out in the garden are even smaller. No ratatouille this year! Also not pictured, I picked two Anaheim peppers which will go into a batch of salsa I hope to can later in the week. Beans are still coming in both from my bush bean beds and from the Kentucky Wonder beans that are just now ripening. The Chinese red noodle beans are peaking this week. I still get broccoli side shoots even though the plants are looking decidedly ragged and the two Lemon cucumbers pictured above are just about the last of the crop, as the vines have pretty well succumbed to powdery mildew.
And finally, here are my first ever dried beans. They are called "Aunt Jean's", ordered from Fedco. They seem to be a sort of yin-yang bean. I don't think I even got quite a pound of them, but I'm looking forward to making a pot of baked beans with them later in the winter. I'm trying to dry my runner beans too since we've been swimming in all the other beans around here.
That's it for this week's Harvest Monday report which is hosted over at Daphne's Dandelions!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Experiment Gone Right

 Yesterday I decided I needed to thin the parsnip bed. You know, the one that had been interplanted between my spring cauliflowers and cabbages. As you can see from the photo above, they have turned out pretty well and these are just the thinnings. They are quite a mix of large and small, short, stout, long, skinny. I got 2 and a half pounds of parsnips and if I weren't to get another parsnip out of this garden, I can still say they are the best and most I've ever grown. But my hope is that the ones remaining in the garden will get bigger still and sweeter with the cool weather coming. So I would say that my interplanting experiment was a success and I will plant parsnips that way again next year because parsnips take such a long time to grow and I just don't have the space to devote a bed to them alone. Now if only my carrots did as well! I have a long way to go to be able to say I've grown good carrots.
 On another front, two years ago we planted a little apple tree. We coddled it the first year, but this year a rogue blackberry patch engulfed it (and it's gotta go!), but above you see our very first McIntosh apples, all four of them. They are quite ugly and scabby looking because I didn't protect them in any way, but I ate two of them and they were delicious! I have dreams of future apple pies now.
And a number of people suggested I try salad with my abundance of kale. Since we no longer have any garden lettuce at the moment, it seemed like a good idea, so I went online and found a recipe for Massaged Kale Salad. The massaging softens the kale to a wilt which makes a nicer salad, since kale is not terribly tender. Well, jackpot! I really liked how it tasted and the health benefits are a bonus. So thanks for the suggestions!
Lastly, a little bit of blogger business. I have only had this blog for a little over a year, but I noticed recently that the photos on my older posts are gone. They simply show a blank screen with a little symbol of some sort on it. This is quite annoying because I have friends who go to read the old posts and they don't always make sense without the pictures. Does anyone know why this would be? I haven't seen this with other blogs I've read. Any helpful answers would be appreciated. Have a great week gardening friends!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Harvest Monday: Garden Fatigue Edition

I'm feeling kind of blah about the garden this week. We are a week into September and experiencing what I call garden fatigue. The harvest is steady but limited in variety and things look a little sad down there. Many of the older plants are diseased and dying and my fall crops never do that great. Those plantings that survived are still smallish and only have about a month before our earliest frost either does them in completely or at least slows them down considerably. For some reason this is the time of year that the wild creatures become more active too and I find a number of plants that are chewed on. The one thing that keeps things looking at least somewhat perky down there are the marigolds. This year I actually got them planted out and they are blooming merrily. Sorry, I don't have a picture of them today but hopefully will in a coming post.
But back to garden fatigue. When the garden gets to this state I lose a bit of my enthusiasm and tend to pull back on some of the basic jobs I should be doing, like watering and weeding and even taking photos. I'm doing far better this year than usually, so things are improving on that score, but I need to give myself a stern talking to to get things done and that doesn't always work.
The harvest now is primarily tomatoes. My vines are still loaded with them but the vines themselves are all but dead. Thankfully enough of them are big and with a pink blush that tells me they will still ripen, which is a good thing!
 Kale continues producing well and in fact, there is a new planting for the fall that is getting pretty large, so barring any creatures going for them they should provide a good harvest over the next few months. I just have to find some new and exciting ways to eat kale because it does get dull for all it is a nutritional powerhouse. We do kale-bean soup and I have a great sautéed kale recipe. But that's about it.
We were inundated with beans last week, but this week they've slowed down quite a bit. The Chinese Red Noodle beans are really coming into their own now. They have proved to be a hit with my husband and son, so I'll continue to plant them in future gardens. I have a late planting of green beans that will be ready to pick later in the week. You can see that I picked my first two winter squashes. They are Buttercup, which we love around here, one large and one small. I have two more still growing out there along with eight Butternuts, one Kabocha, one Long Island Cheese pumpkin and one mystery squash (likely a misshapen Long Island Cheese.) Not a ton, but it is my best success with winter squashes to date. Last year I grew the same number of squash, but they were all much smaller. My Delicata plants gave me exactly one stunted little squash and a ninth Butternut, the smallest, broke off its stem and immediately started to get soft around the neck.
You can also see leeks in the photo above, which were harvested for last night's supper of potato leek soup. Yum! That's it for this week's Harvest Monday, which is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions every week. I hope you're not experiencing garden fatigue and I hope mine has passed by the next time I post!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Harvest Monday

I am a little late getting my Harvest Monday post up today, because it's been a day of catching up with vegetable preserving chores. This past week we had visits from our niece and her husband, who live in Oregon, and our younger son who lives in New York. It has been wonderful to be with family, since we are all so far-flung, but I have been barely able to keep up with harvesting, let alone preserving. Today I am busy canning tomatoes and sauerkraut and blanching and freezing beans. I think I'll be at it into the night!
Don't have too many pictures either, but the harvest has been terrific. I am inundated with beans this year, to the point where I've been giving them away by the bagful just to avoid dealing with them all. They kicked in late, but boy, when they did they really went to town!
 The photo above is what I picked today and it totaled over 19 pounds of produce. It is representative of what I've been picking all week. My zucchini plants are all but dead, and my yellow squash is going fast, but it is putting out a last little flush of squashes. The trombocino is still going strong.
The cucumbers are slowing down, but I am still getting plenty for refrigerator pickles. I harvested green beans, more yellow Gold Marie Vining beans and Chinese Red Noodle beans.  I also harvested some of my very first dried beans, but I will post some photos of those on another day. Broccoli side shoots are still producing. Tomatoes are coming in fast and furiously and I now feel pretty confident that I'll be able to can enough stewed tomatoes to get us through the year before the vines are completely dead and the tomatoes stop ripening.
I pulled two of my larger leeks to see how they are doing and was pretty happy with them, but I'll let the rest try to get a bit larger before I take any more. We look forward to potato leek soup when the weather gets cool.
My August harvest total was 291 and a half pounds compared to 203 pounds last summer. Which is awesome! One good thing about having my son here was that I was able to send him home with the equivalent of a nice CSA box. He left here with a cabbage, a large bag of beans, a bag of cherry tomatoes, a trombocino, some heads of garlic, a container of refrigerator pickles, a container of homemade sauerkraut, homemade yogurt, jam, jelly, pickle relish and honey from his uncle's hives. He groused a little about having to carry it all through the streets of NY, but once he got it home to Brooklyn I'm sure he was happy to have it! Now if only I could get some of that good stuff to the son in Florida!
Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions each Monday where you can enjoy the harvest reports from vegetable gardeners everywhere. That's where I'm headed now!