Monday, October 30, 2017

Storing Carrots

One of the comments on my last post was from tpals.  She asked if I would explain  more about how I store my carrots.

So here goes.  I hope the pictures make the method clearer.

I take regular gallon-size twist and tie plastic storage bags and with my husband's help as he holds the bags taut, I use scissors (blades closed) to randomly poke 6 holes in each bag.

Then the carrots are stacked in the bag and the bag is closed with a twist tie.

I'll readily admit I don't feel great about the use of the plastic bags for this method of storage but it truly does provide better keeping quality for the carrots than any other method we've tried over the years.

The same method is used for all the carrots, the orange and the purple ones I've been growing.  The purple carrots looks almost black, don't they?

About half of the purple variety grew so big this year that they won't fit in a gallon size bag, so they went into a plastic bucket and will be covered with a damp towel to help hold the moisture in.  (I'm calling them prehistoric black carrots as they look a little scary to me.)

The bagged carrots were stacked in an open, shallow tote box and are now happily (I hope) relaxing in the root cellar.

I know pictures do help almost any explanation so here's hoping you have a better idea of the way I do it, tpals!


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Carrots and Cabbages Harvested

Given the weather forecast for the next week (rain/snow/cold/frost), we knew we'd better harvest cabbages and dig carrots today.

Remaining in the garden were 21 heads of cabbage, some red and some green.  The red cabbages didn't get as big as the green ones this year, but that's fine with me.  I've been planting both varieties that don't get as big as Rhode Island because 1) they're easier to work with, and 2) unless I'm making sauerkraut, a giant head is sometimes hard to use up before it goes bad.

This year we're going to try hanging the cabbages by their roots in the root cellar.  I'm also going to cover the heads with a perforated plastic bag.  We'll see how this method works to keep them fresh for an extended period.

Our main crop of carrots is always Scarlet Nantes which did much better (hooray!) than the pencil-thin roots I got last year.  Last year and this year, I also planted a 4' row of the Deep Purple variety and a 4' row of the Dragon variety.  They are both "purple" carrots, but the Dragon is dark only on the outside with a more regular orange color underneath the skin.  The Deep Purple is a dark color all the way through.  Looks great on a relish tray, but I've learned not to put them in a soup or stew because they "bleed" and turn most everything an unappetizing gray.  Yuck.

Those few in the wheelbarrow above are in the process of getting the tops cut off leaving about an inch of stem.

Then we hose them off before storage.  Don't these look almost glow-in-the-dark?  (Anybody have an idea what that renegade light colored one is?)

Here's about half of the purple carrot harvest in a five gallon pail.  They are HUGE this year.  Or as Papa Peas says, "Almost scary."  Many of them are a full 12" long.  I'm eager to taste test them and hope they didn't get too big and are woody or have a bitter flavor.

After experimenting with storing our carrots in all kinds of ways (in sand, in sawdust, in a pail with a moist towel on top), we've found what works best for us is to package them in perforated plastic bags and stack the bags in a container in the root cellar.  I know some people say washing the dirt off them before storage shortens their keeping quality, but we haven't found that to be so.

As of this moment, the cabbages, carrots, beets, potatoes and apples are all resting in the very cool feed room so next on the list is to carefully sort through them, toss (to the poultry) any with outstanding bad spots and then get them down to the root cellar.  We were going to get that all done today (hahahaha!), but after working outside in the 32 degree weather (with water) for a few hours, we decided to stagger inside and call it a day.  At least it's all harvested now which is more than half the battle.

I tell ya, this gardening fun stuff just never ends, does it?

Friday, October 27, 2017

First Snow Cover - October 27, 2017

Leaving the feed room, going out for morning chores.

Sleep tight, little honey bees.

Still open water.

"I told you we should have put
the deck furniture away."

Frost snow on the pumpkins.

Our remaining six geese.   Three females, three males.
Now if they would just show signs
of choosing their
life-long partners . . . 
(A round or two of The Dating Game,

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fall Must Be Over, Eh?

We knew it would happen.  Our long, lovely fall just may be coming to an end.  We've had rain all day today and the forecast is for 1-3" of snow overnight and into Friday.  At first we were being told to expect 5-8" but that's now been downgraded significantly.  Currently at 5 p.m. the temperature is holding at 41 degrees so we'll have to wait to see if it gets cold enough to allow snowflakes to fall and stay on the ground.

Continuing the completion of fall chores was thrown into high gear yesterday.

I planted the first of two beds of garlic on the 21st and finally got the second one in just yesterday, the 25th.  I'm not sure what happened this year as I try to have it all planted by Columbus Day, the 12th.  Did not make it this year.

With the threat of wet weather, we dug our potatoes on the 21st.  Not a good crop this year.  I'm not sure we got much more than a hundred pounds.  In our best years the taters have weighed in at over two hundred and fifty pounds all told.  As we said over and over as we were gathering up the scant quantity of spuds, "Well, we like rice."

In the flurry of oncoming bad weather, yesterday we harvested all our apples.  Again, a sparse year compared to usual. 

I finally, at long last, harvested the beets.  Got a very nice quantity of them and this coming week I'll be prepping most of them for the freezer with some stored "fresh" in the root cellar.

Chicken Mama and Gilligan got busy right after our duck and geese harvesting day, ground up a little over four pounds of duck meat, divided it in half and each made a batch of duck jerky using their own mixture of seasonings.  Both turned out very good, although Gilligan thought he might have put too much ground black pepper in his.  He thought of labeling it "Pepper Duck," but I suggested "Ducky Pepper."  (Get it?  Ducky Pepper . . . Dr. Pepper?  Huhn.  Well, I thought it was clever.)

'Tis time for me to think about baking our first batch of holiday fruitcake.  Maybe tomorrow when we're experiencing our first snow cover of the season (I'll believe it when I see it) will be the perfect time to do that.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fall Butchering Day II

If a butchering day can ever be a great day, yesterday was one.  Great fun, camaraderie, friendship and wonderful helping hands for which Papa Pea and I were very grateful.

Chicken Mama, Gilligan, and good neighbors D and M joined us in our second butchering of the season which included 14 ducks and 3 geese.

The day was gray, chilly and overcast with a bit of wind, but at least no rain.

We started the actual butchering a little after 9 a.m. and broke shortly after noon for a lunch of soup, garlic cheese bread and pie.  Except we voted to save the pie and coffee for when we were all done.

Over the delayed dessert 'round about 3 p.m., D regaled us (he's an excellent story teller) with tales of growing up on a farm in western Minnesota with his brother and three sisters.  As soon as they were each old enough, they were expected to "work" right alongside their mother and father, but as D said, they didn't feel they were abused in any way.  It was just the way his family functioned.  And, of course, the kids all had time to have fun while partaking of all the mischievousness they could experience being healthy kids raised in that environment.  Made a couple of us adults around the table feel we'd missed something in our own "townie" upbringing. 

I'll not post any of the pictures I took to commemorate the day except for one of the ones taken by our photographer-with-the-artistic-eye daughter.

At clean-up time, we raked, gathered and chased one heckuva lot of feathers, but I'm sure some of them blew all the way up to the Canadian border.  Or if not actually that far, at least folks a few acres away may be wondering what's all that white, gray and black fluffy stuff skittering across their yards and through the woods.  As Chicken Mama said, she can picture some cozy, comfy, down and feather lined nests this winter for the small forest critters.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Gaining on Garden Clean-Up and the First Apple Pie of the Season

I'm finally making enough progress on getting the garden ready for winter that I can start to feel good about it.  (Whew!)

This is a shot of a partial row of raised beds I completed today.  You can see the bed closest in the picture still has parsley on either end of it.  Lush, beautiful, succulent parsley that I don't have the heart to yank out.  Yet.  I've never been successful at wintering over my parsley plants.  Anyone have any suggestions as to how I might do it up here in da nort country?

Yesterday Papa Pea tilled up the field garden for me.  At the far end of it, which you can just barely see in this picture, are the rows of potatoes that we have yet to harvest.  The three long rows of strawberries are to the right, and if I can remain inspired, I could/should do a little weeding in them before a hard frost hits.

Four of the raised beds still have cabbages, red and green, carrots and beets in them.  We had so much moisture this past spring, summer and into fall that the slug population was doing real damage.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try stripping off all of the bottom and side leaves of the cabbages, and I do believe it's helped.  Those ugly, slimy little creatures don't have nearly as much habitat in which to live, love and lunch now.

I'm shamefully admitting I still haven't harvested and processed my beets.  I've been talking about doing it for a month (or more) but they've been silently waiting in their raised bed without yelling at me . . . so they keep getting pushed to the bottom of The List. But soon.  I must get at them soon.

I made our first apple pie of the season today . . . with apples from our own trees.

Ooops.  I may have been a smidge bit over zealous in the amount of apples I prepared.  (Although I do dislike a skimpy apple pie, don't you?)

I predict the distinct possibility of serious burbling over in the oven.

Baked and cooling on the counter.  Good smells in the kitchen!

And it didn't even boil over much at all.

A rainy day predicted for tomorrow, but if by chance that doesn't happen, I'll be back out in the garden.  The end is in sight now. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

More Garden Clean-Up

I picked the last of the slicing cukes today.  Then yoinked out the vines and cleaned the raised bed.

There were a surprising number of them hiding under the wilted and sad looking leaves.

Then I harvested the last of the green peppers.  Pulled out those plants, too.  What am I going to do with all these peppers?  I have ample stuffed green peppers for a year and more chopped and frozen for recipes than I need.  I've foisted as many as I can on others.  A bountiful harvest is a drag blessing.

Yesterday I dug the first of the red potatoes to make a big pot of mashed potatoes.  As large as the white potatoes have been, disappointment reigned supreme when digging under three plants to find only these which are mostly piddling little in size.  Also, they have some kind of a scab on the skins which I'm not happy about.

We're waiting for our root cellar to cool down in temp before digging all the potatoes. Same with the carrots although I've been stealing some of them regularly for about a month now.  So happy to see that this year the carrots are back up to normal, big size compared to the pencil thin carrots I got last year.  Still can't figure out why that happened.  Never saw anything like it before.

I did my last cutting and dehydration of mint for the year today.  The pantry now has one gallon of dried mint for Papa Pea's tea supply.  It will be interesting to see just how long it lasts.

This is my pumpkin harvest.  Despite some of them that are still green, we have plenty of nice jack o' lantern sized ones with which to decorate.  I took this pic after I had taken away the small ones that I use in our window boxes.

I hated to pull the summer begonias out as they were still looking good, but figured I'd have to go right to Christmas decorations in the boxes if I didn't get the fall ones in there soon.

Another big butchering day is set for this Sunday.  Twenty-two ducks and three geese.  I'm thinking seriously of running away from home before then.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Still Here, Still Movin'

I've heard from a couple of blogland friends lately wondering if all is well here since I've not posted for a while.  All is well, very well, but I haven't felt as though I had much of interest to share.  So here goes with some of what's been happening, interesting or not.

Garden clean-up continues.  And continues.  Grumpy-dumpy me has declared I'm never planting a garden again.  (Yeah, right.)  Doesn't seem fair that de-structing a garden should take almost as much time as planting it does. 

We have tomatoes coming out of our ears.  Well, the cherry variety any way.  We've had one light frost, but not a killing frost so remarkably enough the tomatoes are still ripening.  We'll take 'em as long as we can get 'em.

Still have potatoes and carrots to dig and the pepper plants under the cold frames continue to produce.  Slicing cucumbers in their cold frame are not looking so great.  I'm thinking the vines may be relocated to the compost heap soon.  Maybe today.

I baked two batches of bread yesterday.  Haven't made any homemade bread in I don't know how long.  Felt good.  Tasted good, too.

We have a bunch of poultry that is mad at us right now.

Integrating the mature hens and the youngun's from this spring has begun.  They've all been captured and are in lock down in the chicken house and attached solarium for a number of days until the young birds find their place in the flock and realize that's their home now.  No more bedding down in either a chicken tractor . . . or a tree!

The ducks that are headed for Freezer Camp (date coming up soon) are corralled in one big pen.  Catching them has not been fun.

They have learned that it's a real kick to flap their little wings and fly.  Some were even taking to roosting on the solar panels.  Yes, on the top of the solar panels.  Way up there.  We've been lucky (and amazed) that none of them have flown the coop, so to speak, and gone over their pasture fence into territories unknown.

These are three of the four ducks we've been unable to catch thus far.  But we shall prevail.

The nine geese are soon to be reduced to a gaggle of six.

"Yikes, that's not news we wanted to hear," say the geese.

Fall is such a gorgeous season in the north woods.  Wish it would last until December 1st when it could start snowing.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


It's hard to believe but I think my lists, both those labeled Inside and Outside, are getting shorter.  (How can that be?  Who cares!  I'm just enjoying looking at the shortened versions.)

Fall has truly come to the north woods.  The leaves are littering lawn and driveway and colors are nearing their peak.  The two days in a row that we've now had with no rain have been most welcome.

We go out to do night time chores now at 6:30 and it's almost dark when we come in.  Because it's dark from about 7 p.m. on, it seems our nights are longer and there's an hour or so more for down time at night before bedtime.  I like it.

Speaking of bedtime, Papa Pea and I were in bed and I think fast asleep at 8:45 last night and slept until 6:30 this morning.  The reason?  We butchered 19 chickens yesterday.  And we couldn't have done it without help from Chicken Mama and Gilligan.  Well, maybe we could have but it would have done kilt us.  Whadda job. The best thing about it was when it was done.  And, of course, all the good chickie meat in the freezer.

I went out into the garden before dinner tonight and pilfered the first potatoes from this year's crop.

I took some from the Burbank Russet planting because I've been so hungry for a baked potato.  But I didn't get it.  Upon scrubbing the potato when inside, all the skin came off so I decided not to bake it.  I unearthed it from under one plant and was very happy to find these other good sized ones along with the big first one.  If the reds turn out to be as prolific, we'll have a good harvest of taters.

The onions that have been curing are just about ready for their final cleaning and storing for the winter.  I use a lot of onions in cooking so it's a great feeling to have a big bunch cached away.

I picked up a book off the "new" rack at the library earlier this week.  Believe it or not, I've never used a slow cooker or crock pot, but now plan to do so and hopefully learn to turn out some good meals.  I've only glanced through this book so far, but am already impressed and think I'll find several recipes to get me started in the right direction.

I got this 4-quart crock pot a couple of weeks ago for $4 at our second-hand resale store.  From what I can tell, it seems to work so . . . wish me luck!  

Monday, October 2, 2017

Garden Going Into Fall

The growth rate of what's left in the garden has s-l-o-w-e-d way down which is only natural this time of year.

The raised beds with cold frames of peppers and cucumbers are still giving us fruit but at a much slower rate than a couple of weeks ago.

I harvested the mangels and turnips (destined as supplemental poultry feed this winter) on Saturday.

Honkin' big things these mangels are.  But considering they can get much bigger, these probably wouldn't be classified as prize winners.

The turnips are most likely bigger than desirable for human consumption, and would be "woody", but I'm thinking the poultry will be happy of a cold, wintry morning to have some warm cooked chunks of either turnips or mangels for breakfast.

Our blueberry bushes are starting to turn their lovely crimson color.  Last week we picked what was the last (a whopping cup and a half full) of the berries.  It was a bountiful year for the berries and we have a huge stash in the freezer.

The big pumpkins are all coloring up nicely.  I've counted about 13 of them.  The pie pumpkins on the arbor trellis are coming along, too, albeit a bit more slowly.  I didn't get as many of them (only eight) as I had hoped for.  There will be plenty for pies but I wanted some for decoration in my window boxes, too.

The sunflowers continue to bloom much to the delight of our honey bees.

The butterflies seem to be enjoying them, too.

The zinnias are hanging in there except for the big, overgrown ones that are keeling over from their own weight.  I especially like the orange ones this time of year.

The mass of nasturtiums got relocated to the compost pile this weekend.  We enjoyed them up until then, but I need to find another location for them next year.  They were planted in a raised bed and since nasturtiums actually prefer a poor soil, they developed way too much greenery (it was kinda scary) and not many blossoms.  A less fertile soil will produce more blossoms and less greenery.

The rains continue to fall upon us and because the temps have been cooler, nothing seems to ever dry out.  Now we've been issued a flash flood warning for tonight so we'll be checking to see everything is battened down outside as we close up for the night.  

The fall rains have really impacted what one can accomplish outside this time of year.  Still, better than the threat of a dry fall and possible forest fires.