Monday, August 21, 2017

It's That Time of Year . . .

. . . when gardeners want to either run away from home or hire someone to be in the kitchen 24/7 helping with the harvest.

But it is, after all, what we work for all gardening season.  That time of year when the garden is producing bountiful quantities of produce . . . and there seems to be no end of it.  Nor a way to keep the kitchen cool.  Nor a way to get enough sleep.  (How in the world did those mothers of families of eight or more, in times gone by, ever manage to put by enough food?!  Food that was depended upon to keep their families fed all year long.) 

Our blueberries are in full ripening mode.  Papa Pea has been great about going out to pick them with me.

Most of them get stashed in the freezer, but I always keep out enough for fresh eating.  And a blueberry dessert now and then.  I still need to make a batch of jam for giving and eating this winter.  We're having to pick about every 2nd or 3rd day right now and, yes, . . . 

. . . we're still keeping the bushes covered as protection from the birds.  This makes harvesting more of a hassle, of course, what with taking off the coverings before being able to pick and then putting them back on again.  But it's worth it.  We're getting about four quarts each picking.

I've given up hope for any kind of a Brussels sprout harvest this year.  Instead of forming tight little heads, the sprouts are exploding as seen in the above picture.  (Kinda looks like my hair when I get up.)  Anybody know what cases this condition?

Even though the temp was up near 90 degrees yesterday in the garden, I did quite a bit of cleaning.

This is the garlic bed that got pulled a few days ago.  I planted two varieties that I've kept going for a couple of years, Blanak and Siberian.  Almost half of the Siberian failed to come up this spring, and then a few of those never made decent bulbs.  The Blanak did very well (thankfully!) and all told we have 60 bulbs drying.  I've already ordered a new supply for planting in October because we won't have enough from this harvest to plant and still have an adequate supply for cooking this coming year.

A bed of salad greens that was overgrown and bitter got bagged up for Chicken Mama to take to her chickens.  The Swiss chard left in the bed is still doing great.

A bit more pruning of the tomato plants was on the agenda along with snipping off the wandering tendrils of the pumpkins and gourds.  It's time for them to put all their energy into developing the fruits already forming rather than into new growth.

With various other clean-up jobs, I managed to fill the compost bins right up to the tippy-top with my gleanings.  Don't know if Papa Pea (Manager of Ye Ol' Compost Production) will be too happy about that or not.

Add the cleaning up of the garden as it becomes possible to the harvesting and processing of food for storage and the days are full.  I really don't want to run away from home and no one has answered my ad (ha-ha) to be an unpaid full-time scullery maid in the kitchen so I'll just keep trucking along and being truly-duly grateful and appreciative of this wonderful harvest time of year.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Different Season, Different Place

I took some pictures of parts of the gardening area yesterday from up in Papa Pea's second floor office.

Panning left to right:

Much of the garden is over-blown now and looking a little the worse for wear.  Some of it has already been pulled out.

Then I dug into my picture files and found these.

During the different times of the year, it's like living in a totally different world.  And, I guess, it actually is.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Words to Live By

Rosemary Beck, the ever-positive, always interesting dear lady over at Content in a Cottage posted these words this morning.

Happiness is the new rich.
Inner peace is the new success.
Health is the new wealth.
Kindness is the new cool.

Amen.  And thanks, Rosemary!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wild Visitors

We had eleven wild Canadian geese splash down on our pond early last Friday morning.

They quickly found some of the lush green grass surrounding the water.  
How did our chickens, ducks and geese react to these visitors?  They went into hiding.

But then it wasn't too long before some of them came out into the open to check the visitors out.  But they didn't get too close trying to act quite nonchalant.

"Who the heck do you think those guys are, Skidmore?"

Fairly soon the ducks were swimming right alongside the Canadian geese, but our geese still weren't that sure of the whole situation.

In a bit the Canadian geese came right up into the yard . . . 

. . . and seemed to make themselves at home. 

During afternoon siesta time when we frequently see our ducks and geese hunkered down taking a nap in the sunshine, we looked out to see the Canadian geese doing the same.

Papa Pea went out to do afternoon chores and was surprised that the visitors didn't seem a bit skittish to have him in close proximity.  

We wouldn't have minded if they'd stayed around longer, but they took to the wing and flew off in the late afternoon.  Come again!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tip-Toe Through the Tulips (Okay, Garden)

Yippee!  My second (or is it the third?) planting of spinach was finally big enough to harvest yesterday.

Also, a few baby Swiss chard leaves.  This cooler weather may not be good for tomatoes and such, but we'll take more fresh greens and be happy about it.

As everyone knows, it's hard to check the zucchini closely enough so at least one of them doesn't get away from you.

No, I haven't managed to get that second batch of Zucchini Bread made yet.  Way too much happenin' around here.  Heck, up until noon today, I sincerely thought it was Wednesday instead of Thursday.  Arrrgh.

Speaking of the zucchini, this is a shot of my zucchini/nasturtium bed.  Can you make out the zucchini plant in the middle of this jumble?  I always plant a raised bed of one zucchini plant in the center with nasturtiums on either end.  This year the nasturtiums went wild but haven't quite succeeded in choking out the zucchini.  So far.

I made the first harvest of yellow beans yesterday.  (They always mature before the green beans.)  I also picked what I'm sure will be the last of the shell peas and sugar snap peas.  The sugar snap peas we eat fresh (gobble, gobble, nom, nom) for as long as they last.  I've given up freezing them because they come out so very limp and, to my mind, unappetizing.  I ended up with only about a third of the shell peas put by that I need for our year's consumption.  Baaad year for shell peas.  I'm going to pull out the vines asap so I don't have to look at them and be reminded of the failure this year.

The pumpkin pie vines have made it to the summit (!) and are now traipsing over the top of the arbor trellis.

This is the largest pie pumpkin and is already about as big as it will get.  Now if we can just get the color and ripeness to the right stage . . . 

We uncovered the blueberry bushes yesterday and picked the berries that were ripe.  Ended up with only two and three-quarters quarts, but I'm happy to say there are a lot of unripe berries still to come.  The above shot of the three rows of bushes covered up again looks like  huge, wiggly, creepy-crawly things from a horror movie. 

I'm spending the day today inside (it's been raining since we got up) trying to get caught up on household-y type things.  I may even get that second batch of Zucchini Bread made.  Maybe.  Or not.

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Week, Beautiful Monday Morning

Almost before I was awake this morning, I pulled on jeans, a short sleeved shirt and a sweatshirt.  I am a sweatshirt kinda gal and maybe that's a perk to this cool August weather.  Sweatshirts are once again a part of my wardrobe, at least for now.

Then I was out and off to the farm to get fresh milk products . . . before my latte even!  (What was I thinking?)  We were overdue for a resupply.

Cottage cheese in process.

Papa Pea was missing cream for his coffee and I was missing the cottage cheese I make for quick, light meals this busy time of year.

I didn't see anyone at the farm; I'm pretty sure all the activity was in the milking parlor as it was no doubt morning milking time. 

As I was loading up my purchased bounty, a few calves came out of their side door of the barn and into the morning sunshine of their outdoor pen.  I think they've taken it upon themselves these days to act as the official meeters and greeters to the business in and out of the milk house.

Traffic on the roads on my 18 mile round trip journey was 'bout even between guys in pick-ups on their way to work and deer.  All in all, a gorgeous morning for a ride.  Cool, crisp and sunshiny.

Baked a batch of zucchini bread last night which we sampled for breakfast.  Mmmm, good.

I'm going to do another batch today substituting half of the butter with applesauce, adding a little more grated zucchini and cutting the sugar.  I like to bake it in my small loaf pans rather than two regular size pans.  Makes a more convenient size for giving away (much better than a couple of over-sized zucchini, right?) or taking on a hike or short vehicle trip.

Also on the schedule is harvesting and processing some beets.  Gotta uncover the blueberries (sigh, whadda job) to check for ripe ones.  The small orchard of new (last year) fruit trees needs to be weeded.

I also want to plant some salad greens to see if they'll germinate and produce a new crop of lusciousness for us late into the season.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

I'll spare you a close-up look inside.
You're welcome.

Papa Pea picked a good amount of ripe raspberries yesterday but, sadness and woe, when I opened a container from the fridge this morning to have with fresh cream, I found the berries are once again infested with little white worms which I believe are the larvae of the fruit fly.  (Pardon me while I go do a small shudder dance.)  The berries developed the worms at the end of last year's season and it looks like they've come on stronger than ever this year.  Good thing the raspberry canes are scheduled to come out this year (they are geriatric and have needed to be replaced) and a new raspberry patch planted.  Oh, well.

The poultry will think it's a holiday when I dump the wormy berries.

It's Monday Wash Day as usual so I'd better get on with that.  Here's wishing all of you a wonderful week! 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

In A Dumpy Funk

It's been a long time since I've had a gardening season that has been so challenging.

We started spring and the first half of summer with very cool, very wet weather and a lack of sunshine which did nothing to get my little plants and seeds off to a good start.

Everything was slow, slow, slow.  Then without a period of gradual warm-up, temperatures that were hotter and more humid than normal arrived.  Along with nary a drop of rain for weeks.

Cool weather crops that didn't even thrive in the previously cool weather came to an abrupt halt in the broiling temps.

The veggies needing heat started to grow but without any moisture other than what we could provide by watering, which you all know is simply not the same as natural rainfall, haven't developed properly.

Then we turned the calendar to August 1st and, just like that, our temps dropped again leaving the garden, and the gardener, more perplexed than ever.

We're down into the fifties at night and not much higher than the sixties during the day.

I'm still waiting to get a second picking of peas and beans have barely formed.

Flea beetles are making lace of all the brassicas left in the garden.  Brussels sprout plants aren't producing any sprouts.  Cabbages aren't forming heads.

The cabbage moths set up housekeeping in my second planting of broccoli which ended up so infested with worms that the poultry feasted on all those heads.

Cucumbers and peppers started to form slowly, but now are wondering where the heat they need has gone.

Birds have attacked our blueberry crop, and we've had to cover the bushes hoping we still get a partial harvest.

Pumkins and squash are green, tennis ball size at the biggest.

Oh, my.  Such a dismal picture I've painted.

I'll admit I have a strong urge to let my Debbie Downer thinking take over and start to clean out the garden, calling it quits for the season.

But.  Hope springs eternal, and there's still a chance (please say there is) this weather will blow away as quickly as it came and we'll find ourselves in a long, beautiful end-of-summer/fall period of perfect growing conditions.  It really could happen.  And then I'll be totally embarrassed that I carried on in this grump-dump, hissy-fit sort of a way.

No, it's not the end of the world.  But I do feel responsible for providing a large part of our food supply for each year.  And this year, I don't see how we could have our usual plentiful harvest.

I've made lots of notes for next season to help, at least, work around some of the garden's difficulties, but bottom line, it's hard to fight Mother Nature.

We won't starve.  To say we're so much better off than early pioneers who had no alternatives regarding their food supply other than what they could grow themselves is an understatement.  We won't suffer anywhere near as much financially as a hard-working farmer who loses his field crops and income due to the whims of the weather.

And none of this will keep me from feeling eager for next year's garden.  So please excuse my grumbling this chilly Saturday morning.  I think I've gotten it out of my system by all this grousing.

Now I may just go start a small fire in the wood stove in the kitchen to take the chill off the house.  The view out the windows of the leaves on the trees starting to turn color (yes, they are) is kinda pretty.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Walking back toward our compost bin this morning, I spotted something on the side of the boards.

Talk about determination to seek out the sunshine to grow and flourish!  You just can't keep these little Johnny-Jump-Ups down. 

Methinks there is a lesson here to be learned.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

In the Garden/In the Kitchen

I'm having trouble with my Sweet Peas again this year, same as for the past couple of years.

I keep rotating them into different beds but not seeing much improvement.  New seeds this year, too.  Finally got the first couple of blossoms a day or so ago, but the vines are drying out and look as though they're gonna give up the ghost.  Darn.

The Morning Glories have been so, so slow this year.  They're hardly halfway up their teepee trellis and I've seen only one blossom.  Sigh.

There is one decent sized green pepper already on this widdle-biddie pepper plant, no less.  When I first started my pepper seeds early this spring, I thought I was getting very poor germination on them so a couple/few weeks later I started a whole new batch.  Turns out the first were just slow germinating so that batch went outside much earlier than the later batch.

This is the bed of the earliest set out.  Do they have any peppers on them yet?  Noooo.  But one of the later transplanted very small plants (above) does.

Our kohlrabis are coming in.  This is just the nice size we like for cutting into sticks and eating raw with dip.  Yum, so fresh, crisp and yet tender.

I can hardly wait for fresh slicing cucumbers to put in salads, on sandwiches and munch out of hand.  This biggest one I've found so far is a whole 4" long!

Gilligan gave me some gladioli bulbs (corms) for my birthday back in April and these are the first ones to bloom.  I think they're gorgeous and I'm enjoying seeing them in their unique color combination.  My friend in Wisconsin sent me a nice sampling last fall of the glads she grows.  (Karen, the green spears of those are up high and healthy and I'm eagerly awaiting their showy blooms soon.) 

I haven't grown any turnips for several years and I think I know why now.  They're good sized already and we've sampled them both cooked and raw with dip.  We're just not crazy about them.  Actually, Papa Pea asked me to grow a small sampling of turnips and mangels this year to try as a supplemental feed for the poultry this winter.  Both are doing well in the garden . . . and I hope the poultry like the turnips better than we do.

I just made another big batch of strawberry fruit leather.  I peel it off the parchment paper sheets . . . 

. . . and cut it into strips, fold the strips in half, wrap in wax paper and store all in glass jars tucked away in the pantry.

The peppermint has grown enough to cut again.  These eight trays of it went into the dehydrator this morning and are now dried and put away as part of the supply I'm trying to stock up on for the coming year.  I'll do another eight trays tomorrow.

AND my shell peas will finally be ready for the picking to start on them tomorrow.  Whoopee!  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Only Option Left May Be Alcohol

On Wednesday of this week we harvested our haskap berries.  We found it hard to tell when they were ripe by depending on the taste.  (That would be sour.)  But, supposedly, they are different than other berries and ripen all at the same time and since a few were starting to fall to the ground we figured it was time.

The berries were abundant this year.  We picked 5-3/4 quarts from our three 4-year old bushes.  They're not easy to pick because the berries grow at random spots on the branches, sometimes deep within the heavily leafed bushes.  And they are squishy.  Even when they come off easily, they are soft and juicy.  And the juice stains.  Trust me.  I know.

Cleaning them is much more time consuming than cleaning blueberries.  Many had the stems still attached.  Because they're juicy, your hands get wet and sticky and leaves or any other debris ends up in the picking container.  (Isn't this fun?  Shall I go on?)  The above shows some of the berries after I cleaned them.

They're more oval than a blueberry and bigger.  Kinda funny shaped.

I decided to take one quart and make a pie.  I used my tried and true blueberry pie recipe which calls for 1/3 cup of flour as thickener.

Taking the pie out of the oven, I noticed the juice showing between the strips of lattice crust seemed quite "liquidy."

After letting the pie cool completely (hoping the filling would firm up), we sampled it.  Runny?  Oh, yeah.

The flavor?  Tart.  Not as sour as eating the raw berries, but tart.  I'm not sure I could have eaten a whole piece without ice cream on top to cut the tartness.  I can only state that the pie has not disappeared as quickly as pies usually do around our house.

Just to give the haskaps a fair trial, I made a batch of jam.

A batch of runny jam.  Too thin to put on bread, but we'll try it one of these mornings on waffles or pancakes.  You know, like syrup.  How's the flavor of the jam?  Tart.  And almost medicinal.  Huhn.  I'm not at all sure using it as a syrup is going to fly either.

Oh, I almost forgot.  We tried dehydrating a tray of them.  Hours and hours and hours (maybe it was days) later, they were still wet.  And tasted slightly bitter.  Almost as if they were burned . . . but still wet.  We tossed them.

So what is all the hype about haskap berries being the best thing since sliced bread?  Why did we plant some bushes in the first place?

Well, they have been proven to have a huge amount of antioxidants in them.

They have a tradition of medicinal (aha!) uses in Japan.  They are five times more potent in polyphenals than blueberries.  (Polyphenals are believed to protect against some common health problems and certain effects of aging.  Yay!)

Haskaps have the highest anthocyanin content of any fruit, they're high in Vitamin C, A, fiber and potassium.  (Anthocyanins have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.  All good.)  But what good is all this if you have to force yourself to stuff them down your gullet?  Sigh.

Papa Pea and I both have a feeling they would make good wine.  It certainly would be an attractive color.  (Wonder if it would stain your teeth?  Oh, crickey.)  Dear daughter of ours has been wanting to try making a cordial from them.  I've assured her I have a nice amount squirreled away in the freezer for her to do just that.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

In The Garden

I've mentioned that the couple of short rows of purple carrots I planted this year have been growing like they're on steroids.

Purple carrot and our first zucchinis.

I couldn't resist pulling one of the carrots yesterday just to see how big the root was.  The top measured a full 20" tall . . . but the carrot was still on the puny side.  Although the above doesn't give a good picture of the coloration of the carrot, looks to me as though the purple color starts at the top and works it's way down.

In slicing up the wee carrot to add to our cottage cheese salad last night, I found it curious that the center of the carrot was not yet purple either.  When mature, this variety is totally a dark purple, top to tip and all the way through.

My little pumpkin patch of full-size, jack o' lantern-type pumpkins is finally taking off.  Still no blossoms though.

Don't tell my husband, but I've got four eggplants tucked in in unobtrusive spots in the garden.  (He's not a fan.)  I started these from seeds and am hoping I get at least a few fruits for my own pleasurable consumption.  (They don't usually do well for me, and I'm beginning to wonder if Papa Pea puts a hex on them.  Just sayin'.)

Onions are easy for me to grow.  This is one bed.  I have one and a half beds of yellow onions and one and a half of reds.

Look, look, my pie pumpkins are starting to climb the arbor trellis!  Okay, they've had help from me (we all need a little help now and then) by tying up their tendrils for encouragement.

I think the new leaves of growth our little apricot tree is putting forth are quite lovely.  When they first appeared as little nubs, I thought they were going to be blossoms (and was practically beside myself with joy), but it was just new growth.  The tree was planted just last year so I was probably over-enthusiastic dreaming about succulent apricots so soon.

The shell pea vines are loaded with pods that haven't started to plump up yet.  To show how slow our season is this year, last year on yesterday's date, July 24th, I pulled the pea vines as the crop was all in and the vines had dried up.  Gulp.  Makes me wonder how our "later" maturing veggies will do this year.  Will they have time to do their thing before a killing frost?  Fingers crossed!