Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Just Pluggin' Along

I have nothing new (let alone earth-shattering) to report, but maybe that's an indication of the fact that all is well and normal.

A half sunny, half overcast day forecasted so as soon as the dew dries up a little more, I'm going to go outside and do what needs to be done.


The red impatiens I planted in the window boxes this year were lush and lovely.  Now?  Not so much.  They're on the way out, and plans to pull them and redo the boxes with small pumpkins and a fall motif are on the agenda today.

Speaking of pumpkins, my jack o' lantern pumpkins are (surprise, surprise) coloring up.  This shot of three of them is straight out of the camera with no tweaking of the color.  Too bad only the tops are orange; the bottoms are still dark green.  But, oh my, are they ever huge this year.  I may need a forklift to haul them out of the garden.

The potatoes are still patiently waiting in the soil for harvesting.  The temp in our root cellar is slowly (slowly being the operative word) going down, but is not nearly cool enough yet for good vegetable storage.

Each year we struggle to find a good place in which to cure our big crop of onions.  This year Papa Pea thought of using our cold frames covering a couple of garden beds.

We pulled out all the onions (above are the yellow ones . . . obviously) and laid them out in two raised beds.  The covers of the cold frames are closed at night to keep the temp from falling too low (and to keep any night time moisture from getting on the onions), and just cracked or opened more widely in the day time to ensure good air circulation.  So far, they seem to be doing okay, but the proof will be in the pudding.  Or in the well-cured onions.  Stay tuned.

I'll close with this picture of our granddog, Tucker, living his hard life.  Nuthin' better than an afternoon nap in the sunshine.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Does This Look Like Garden Produce to You?

I'm bad.  I'm bad.  I'm very, very bad.

Yesterday I should have been dehydrating kale and parsley and processing Brussels sprouts for the freezer.

Instead I took a mental health day and played in my quilt room.  All day.  It was wonderful.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Winding Up Another Week

Even though Jack Frost has not visited us yet, I am on a mission to clear out the garden of just about everything.  Even though I've managed to grow and harvest much more than I would have guessed from the gardening struggle efforts this year, I think the difficult growing conditions have 'bout taken the urge-to-grow stuffings out of me, and I'm oh-so-ready to forget about it until next spring.

I'm leaving the salad greens and such until they get frozen into a petrified state and keel over.  And carrots, potatoes, cabbages and some beets will stay in the ground until the temp in our root cellar comes down more.  Oh, yes, I still have the Brussels sprouts to harvest and process.  The onions, the poor onions.  They need dry weather to start their curing in the soil, but right along with the past many months, rains keep pummeling us so I don't know how well they will turn out.

We had more heavy rain yesterday.  The rain gauge held one and two-tenths of an inch when I slogged out to check it in late afternoon.  Now I see we got another two-tenths over night.  The daylight hours continue to be foggy, heavy, gray and wet even when it's not raining.  Needless to say, this weather makes cleaning out the garden a little more challenging.

Last Thursday was forecast to be a sunny day so Papa Pea and I laced on our hiking boots and set out for a day's play.  We started out in grayness (just when was the sunny day supposed to appear?) and it stayed that way until we were in our vehicle driving home in the late afternoon when Ol' Sol decided to peek out for a short time.  (But at least it didn't rain on us while we were out and about.) 

Our hike was very up and down, in fairly steep terrain which was probably good since it got our blood moving and body temps rising on what turned out to be a very chilly, windy day.  (With no sun.  Oh, I guess I already mentioned that.)

We were in an area that is favored by rock climbers and ice climbers.  It was interesting to come upon these.  I don't know the official name for them but they're obviously tie-downs or some kind of ground anchors.  It was a vertical rock wall straight ahead over that ledge.

But gray day or not, it was good to be out, and we enjoyed ourselves.  Saw a bit of autumnal color which, on the whole, seems to be late in arriving to our area this year.  And doggone it, ya think you're in good shape, but both of us were really feeling some sore leg (and gluteus maximus!) muscles all day yesterday.

My dear husband is off on a male-type fun day, and I was going to attack the garden clean-up again.  (Whadda martyr.)  But ya know what?  It is extremely wet out there (still and yet) so I'm going to toddle on into my quilt room and enjoy some quality time there.  If I had some early fall apples, I'd whip up an apple pie to add a fragrant, cozy atmosphere to the house . . . but we haven't gotten any apples yet.  From the inquiries we've made, it seems we weren't the only ones who've had a really poor apple year.

So in lieu of the real deal, I'll put some of this potpourri to simmer on the stove.  It smells so much like an apple pie baking that it's been know to fool those entering the kitchen into thinking a slice of pie might be in the offing . . . only to have their hopes dashed when realizing it's just the aroma . . . but without the pie.  Bwaaah-haha-ha!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Too Much!

Not that my situation is a lot different than the rest of you gardeners/homesteaders/trying-to-be-self-sufficienters, but throw in a few other difficulties and stresses that one encounters in everyday life . . . and I've just been too busy lately.  Too busy to keep up with correspondence, harvesting, processing, homemaking and doing all the rest I want to do.  Night before last I had terrible, awful nightmares all night long and woke up feeling dreadful physically and sporting an ugly attitude.  How much more of a wake-up call do I need to realize some changes need to be made?

I talked to myself all day yesterday and think I have things going in a better direction.  My self-analysis and pep talk must have accomplished something, because I had a pretty good night's sleep last night and don't feel like biting anybody's (man or beast) head off this morning.  So far.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Gosh, I didn't mean to give the impression with my last post that our garden was a complete bust this year.  I've been continually amazed at what we have gotten out of it considering the not-at-all conducive growing conditions we had from start to finish.  Plus, I still have bountiful amounts in the garden waiting to be harvested.  We've been luck and although we've had a couple of nights down in the high 30s, no frost for us yet.

My green pepper plants have done wonderfully, although they were "babied" under a cold frame for most of the growing season.  I've harvested some with holes and a few misshapen ones, chopped them and put them in the freezer for use in soups, casseroles, etc. this winter.  I still have to do the main harvest and make them into Stuffed Green Peppers for the freezer.

We've been blessed with oodles and oodles of luscious salad greens most of the summer.  Swiss chard, arugula, mizuna mustard, kale and lettuce is still coming along. 

The yellow and red onions look to be large in size this year.  I haven't harvested them yet.  The tops have toppled over but are still mostly green, so I'm squeezing all the growing time out for them that I can.

I have more slicing and lemon cucumbers than we can eat, I can ferment or give away.  I've never had lemon cukes grow so prolifically.

Our garlic harvest was fantastic.  I think I will be giving small bags of garlic as Christmas presents.  (Kidding.)  We will never consume all of it fresh so I may be dehydrating some of it.

Potatoes, carrots and some beets are still in the dirt.  The beets I've already processed have been beautiful.  Very scab-free and perfectly formed.  I'm expecting the potatoes and carrots to be a heavy harvest.  We'll hold them in the garden as long as we can.  Then they'll be stored in our root cellar which isn't cold enough yet even though we've been using the air exchange fan to bring in the cool night time air.

I harvested and we ate the last of the radishes just last week.  I did succession plantings of them all summer long and because of the lack of any sustained hot weather, they grew like gangbusters.

I haven't put by as many shell peas as last year, but I did plant and freeze sugar snap peas which puts us way over our "pea quota" for the ensuing months.  No problem there.

My green beans never got a chance to do all they could because of the mold that decided to attack them.  However, the yellow wax beans produced so well we won't be suffering any bean shortage.

Cabbage, both red and green, grew exceptionally well, and I've fermented a lot of it over the summer and will store the remaining heads in the root cellar where they kept very well last winter.

The bulk of the Brussels sprouts are still in the garden.  Supposedly, they become sweeter with a light frost, but I'll be harvesting all of them soon, I'm guessing.  It was a good year for them, and they were prolific.

Last but not least, our blueberry bushes continue to bear so heavily I'm afraid the frost will zap the remaining berries before they have a chance to ripen.  This year they have been outstanding.

So you can see our good, ol' garden has come through for us and there would be no way we would starve this winter even if we never left home to buy food!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

As far as the stresses I need to learn to deal with in a better manner so I don't have those nights filled with ugly-bugly dreams, keeping everything in perspective is the key.  My stresses are piddling-little compared to those with which other good folks are dealing.  I'm thankful and appreciative of my life and that I have the good health and ability to be too busy living the life I've chosen.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gray Day Garden Walk

We seem to be in the midst of a few gray days here.  Again.  (You'd think we'd be used to this since it's been this way NEARLY ALL SUMMER!  Plus we've been warned of possible frost tonight . . . down around 30°.  If the sky was clear I would be worried, but with this heavy cloud cover, I truly don't think we will see frost.

I'm not going to bother covering anything left in the garden.  Whatever will be, will be (Suffering garden burn-out, are we?)

I've been reading your blogs detailing all the things you've been making with your abundant harvests of tomatoes along with pictures showing every surface in your kitchens covered with ripe and ready tomatoes, so I thought I'd share a photo of my tomato harvest.

These are the first ripe tomatoes we've had this season.  (Fer Pete's sake, I can't even grow a crop of cherry tomatoes this year!)

Above is one of my little pie pumpkins.  There are few of them on the vines this year, and they show no signs of maturing.  Maybe I can use them for decorations though.  Green decorations.

The jack o' lantern pumpkins are more prolific and very large . . . but certainly a long way from turning the appropriate color.

I've been delighted to see that my red kuri squash (a winter squash) might actually turn out to be edible.  These are nearly the color they're supposed to be when harvested.  (Picture right out of the camera.)  I just wish they wouldn't get so big.  (Never satisfied, am I?)  These are about three-quarters the size of a basket ball.  Ones just large enough to serve the two of us would be much more convenient.  But when they are this big, I bake the whole thing, use what we want for a meal and then puree and freeze the rest to use in place of pumpkin for pies or other pumpkin desserts.

These seeds were labeled "Mixed Gourds" which I thought would be nice for fall decorations.  The only fruit I've been able to find on the vines is these little white pumpkins.  Hmmm, who messed with my seeds?

The potato vines aren't exactly standing up and saluting anymore but they're far from dead so I do hope we get some more good growing weather for them.  I've stolen some spuds from two plants and they're nice sized already.

I try to plant only heirloom seeds so I can learn how to save my own seeds which could come in handy some day.  But this is the problem we face with our short growing season.  I have lovely, large bean pods on this planting of yellow wax beans, but as you can see the bean bushes haven't died down yet nor have the pods matured enough to dry and give me seeds fit for saving.  The plants will get killed by frost before they dry properly.  And I really can't plant the beans earlier so they would start maturing and drying sooner in the season.  Nope, they go in as soon as the weather and soil are warm enough to keep the seeds from rotting before sprouting.  Yep, the short growing season is a real challenge up here.

So is the very chilly mid-September weather that threatens a frost for tonight!  (But, hey, I'm handling it.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oh, How the Wind Doth Blow!

We had a wind and rain storm last night that brought us 3/4 of an inch of rain.  The winds were forecast to be up to 40 mph, and I don't know how strong they actually were, but they managed to do a little damage in the garden.

Papa Pea had to make some repairs to the cold frames that had trouble holding their own in the wind.

I think this signals the end of my corn crop for this year.  Matter of fact, I don't think I'll plant corn again next year.  Last year it got flattened twice by wind, and we got zip in the way of a yield from it.  Perhaps Mother Nature is trying to tell me this isn't corn growin' country.  Sigh.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Beautiful Sunny Day!

What a treat!  We had a perfect weather day today.  Both Papa Pea and I were able to putter around outside getting lots of good things done.

I did take a bit of a rest (plunked on my posterior) for a couple of hours prepping chives for the freezer.

If you've read my blog for a while, you know I'm a big fan of freezing chives to use in my cooking all through the winter months.  I usually do this task first thing in the spring when my chives first grow tall enough to harvest.  Hrumpf, didn't get it done first thing this spring.  (Probably because the chives were still under a couple feet of snow!)

Anywho, I knew that I couldn't put this little task off much longer or Jack Frost would take care of it for me, and I would spend the winter . . . chiveless.

But my procrastination may have caused me to make a good discovery.  The chives I harvested today were much more pungent than those harvested early on in the season.  Matter of fact, there were a couple of times during the processing when my eyes started watering just as they do sometimes when slicing onions.  But this is a good thing!  That means that not only will my chives add color to selected dishes this winter, but they will also add more flavor.  Who knew the potency of chives is different at different times during the season?  (Not moi obviously.)

Call me Clumsy Carp (anybody remember that character from the old comic strip B.C.?) as I somehow managed to dump two containers of the chives during the processing.  After that, I put the lids on the containers immediately after filling them.

I've been checking our Painted Mountain Corn to see when the ears would be big enough, but not totally matured, to eat as sweet corn.

Today these were the only two ears I could find in the whole darn corn patch that were big enough to harvest.

I've posted about this corn we grow previously.  When mature it looks much like Indian Corn (above picture from two years ago) and can be ground for a super-nutritious flour or fed to livestock.  When the ears are immature, as were the two I picked today, they can be eaten as sweet corn.

So how did these two sample ears taste?  Very, very good!  Of course, not as sweet as the hybrid corn bred and grown as the sweet corn many of us are used to, but I'm assuming the taste of ours today was much like the sweet corn our grandparents grew in their gardens.

I have to admit it does look particularly strange to see a "black" cob after one is done eating!

Here's hoping for another sunny day tomorrow.  Along with still more to harvest, I'm into tearing out old vines and plants.  Deconstructing the garden is just as much work as planting it is . . . but not nearly as satisfying!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

And the Rains Keep Coming

Doesn't seem fair.  Nope, doesn't seem fair at all that we continue to get so much rain while there are those of you in other parts of the country that would love to have about two solid weeks of our wet weather.

We had rain overnight which continued most of this morning.  Happily it cleared up this afternoon, and we even had some sunshine.  It was late afternoon before things dried out enough in the garden for me to venture out there.  I currently have a list here on my desk of 15 things (no foolin') I need to do in the garden.  Even though I ended up with gardening shoes caked with mud (I was suddenly much taller), I did get the pea vines pulled out and the cattle panel supports taken down.

Tomorrow and the next three days are supposed to be sunny (wa-HOO!) so I'm eager to get a lot done in the way of more harvesting and clean-up in that time.

I was able to get only 27 servings of green beans off the plants this year before they succumbed to mold.  (Just too, too much rain and not near enough sun.)  Last year I put up 43 servings which is closer to what I aim for.  But I have more than enough yellow beans put by so, fear not, there will be no bean shortage in our house this winter.

Our blueberry bushes are prolific this year, and we already have more squirreled away in the freezer than we've ever had before.  We've given some away and are eating lots fresh along with the ones I've used in baking.  For some reason, I've just craved blueberry anything (!) as a baked goodie this season.  Our daughter isn't terribly fond of blueberries (where did we go wrong in raising her?) and when I offered her a slice of blueberry pie for about the fourth time this season, she asked if I couldn't please make some other kind of pie.

As we speak, I have a pan of Blueberry Buckle in the oven.  It smells heavenly and I just know my better half will insist on having it for breakfast tomorrow morning.  'Sokay, that makes an easy breakfast meal for me!  

I dehydrated a really big batch of parsley (it was almost too much to do at once between the washing and de-stemming before even getting it in the dehydrator -- took me three and a half hours by actual count) late yesterday.  It wasn't quite finished last night so I had to give it another hour or so today before packing it in jars.

Now it's tucked away on the pantry shelf.  With luck, this last batch added to the previous amounts dried will be enough until next spring.

Well, let's hope that we get our three days of sunshine and those of you needing moisture so badly get three days of rain.  If only it would/could work out that way . . . 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Go "Paddle Your Own Canoe!"

That's what we did today.

Papa Pea saved and saved his allowance until he had enough to purchase the solo canoe he's been wanting for quite some time.  Today was the first time we've taken it out to try it.

We hauled it up to a little puddle of a lake . . . so if the paddler dumped out on the maiden voyage, there would be less chance of drowning.  The little lake at the deepest was only five feet so six foot-plus owner of said solo canoe would be able to stand in the water without too much trouble.  (His wife might have been in jeopardy.)

But no fear.  All went extremely well and the canoe was pronounced sea-worth and very stable.

Papa Pea has quite a bit of leg to fit in a canoe, but that's always been a problem even in our full-sized canoes.

Here he's trying it out kneeling in the traditional paddling position.

After the initial test run, he asked me if I wanted to try it.  Sure!

We both agreed that it handled extremely well, but using the kayak paddle as he is in the first two pictures made "steering" much easier than using a traditional canoe paddle as I am in the above picture.

After the canoe christening, on the way home we stopped at a favorite lake which was totally deserted except for two loons.  As we watched, one dove underwater and came up with a fish in its bill!  We stretched out on the dock, and both of us could have fallen fast asleep without too much trouble.

Regarding something I can't figure out concerning this same lake, I'd like someone to explain this to me.  I used my zoom lens to capture the shot of this large rock sticking out of the water a ways out in the lake.  When boating on this lake (a fairly good fishing lake) one has to be very aware of the general vicinity of this rock because normally the tip of it is just under the surface of the water.  So, why, after a winter of heavy snow and a summer of heavy rain is the rock currently sticking almost two feet out of the water?  Wouldn't you think the water level of the lake would be higher than usual right now rather than lower?