Monday, October 10, 2016

Tomatoes and carrots

The gardening season officially ended this week with a couple of hard frosts and some snow. The garden was giving it right to the end, though.

One late season mystery was the Jerusalem artichoke. It grew to an amazing height (I'm 6'2" and it is at least four feet over my head). We'll dig up the tubers either later this week or in the spring. But it never flowered. I'm going to try it in a sunnier location next year.

We scrambled last Sunday and brought in the tomatoes. This year was better than past years (e.g., not doing it in the sleet while wearing headlamps). We're on top of the ripening so far with batches of sauce cooking.

I had to call out the reserve army of labour to help with the processing this weekend. We have both a tomato and a carrot glut and needed to get some counter space back.

As much as I hate to see the season end, the effect of frost on plants is amazing. First a pretty coating of sparkles followed by cellular collapse.

Then it snowed. "Let's leave the carrots in one more day so they sweeten up", I said. We managed to dig up the front beds yesterday.

There is still the back bed to do. Maybe today. Maybe it is just green manure? We're still processing carrots. Some I've blanched and frozen. The big ones are in a box in the cold(ish) room in the basement. The smaller ones are in the fridge for use or cake or soup... .

The good news is that cooler weather means I can apple jack on the back deck. I have 12 litres of cider out there now and I'm hoping to reduce its volume by two thirds.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Harvest season continues

Apologies for the lack of posts; the autumn has kept us busy!

As the day-to-day demands of gardening have begun to wind down, we've been busy thinking about next year. In the back, we've added some support to the raspberry bushes to better pin them up against the fence.

We've also started re-contouring the bed for next year's bean and pean crops (we'll put in the trellises next spring). There is a small, ackward part of that bed that juts out. Jenn bought some of the new Canada at 150 tulips so Jess put them in there for some colour. The photo below isn't great but is notable that she seems to be giving me the finger... ?

We've been harvesting beans most nights. The pole beans are about 80% done but we have barely begun to tap the scarlet runners.  We've been setting many lady bugs free--I think they came in on the apples.

In the front, we have a bumper crop of buckwheat (as green manure) that the frost should kill shortly. We also have a bunch of carrots and beets. Again, waiting on the frost before digging the carrots and plunking in some garlic.

It has been very we this fall and the grass has provided a wide variety of fungus to be mildly grossed out by. These guys are apple-sized and promptly melted into a yucky mess.

We survived apple season and have lots of preserves and dried apples. We also ate so many (fresh or in various baked goods) that Jess is starting to turn up her nose at dessert.

It was really wet this year and the apples were huge for it. Below are two apples from the tree (softball sized) and the apple in front is you typical store bought apple.

With the apple glut behind us, we're now into tomato season. It has been cool and cloudy a lot this summer so the tomatoes are delayed. This has allowed us to better manage consumption. Basically we've managed to stay even with the ripening with only a couple of batches of salsa and tomato sauce to use up the excess.

It looks like frost this week, however. So we decided to harvest whatever was left yesterday. I planted fewer tomatoes this year after some complaints in previous years but we still have a lot to deal with over the next month. The window sills and cookie sheets are all full.

This week I'll be turning down some more beds (depending on how wet the soil is) and shucking more beans. I'd also like to get some more kayaking in. And there is a wine kit in the basement calling my name.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Harvest season

So it is harvest season here and things are a touch frantic. The apples tree had a huge crop this year and we're eating them and dehydrating rings. 

We're also working at keeping up with the tomatoes (the tomatoes below went into tomato sauce that I froze).  I rolled the dice on Sunday and left the tomatoes out despite the low temperatures and everything seemed to turn out okay! We should have a bumper crop of eating tomatoes. A few weeks of warm temperatures would be helpful in this regard!

We dug the potatoes Monday night. These are Caribe Blues and the harvest was good. Maybe 50 or more pounds and some huge potatoes (big potatoes seem to last longer in storage). We need to clean them up and then get them into the basement tonight.

We had a mystery squash plant volunteer this year (some sort of cross between a yellow zucchini and something else is my guess). Need to figure out what to do with it.

I am starting to put the beds behind the garage down for the year except for one last set of zucchini that I'm waiting to bulk up some.

We're also eating our way down one of the front beds, harvesting carrots and beets to add to the potatoes for roasted roots. I am hopeful we'll soon have space to plant next year's garlic crop.

The beans are also starting to mature and dry out. I've been concentrating on the white pole beans out front (which are closer to finished) but have also started grabbing scarlet runner beans from the back as I see the pod turn brown.  Need to let these guys dry out a bit before putting into a jar.

The raspberry canes are on my to-do list this week. With the potatoes out, I will also move the soil around a bit in the back bed to get ready for next year's crop of beans and peas.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Apples, Black Berries, Beans and Tomatoes

Apologies for the lack of posts this past week; things have been pretty crazy around the house and I just couldn't find the time to blog about the garden.

September has only just begun and it feeling very much like autumn (cooler temperature and overcast). Fortunately no risk of frost in the forecast as there is still quite a lot of stuff in the garden!

A few weeks ago, the blackberries were really starting to look good with a few berries ripening early. Since then I have been out and picked perhaps two cups (the berries are huge--as big as thumb).

There are still a lot of green berries on the canes and I am freezing them until I have enough for some jam. I also staked some of the bigger canes to see if I can get the plant to spread. At the same time, I cut back the terrible black raspberry canes to keep it contained!

I turned the crab apples we foraged into a lot of crab apple jelly. I also did a second batch of zucchini salsa and then put the pressure canner away for another year.

The sun flowers are a welcome shot of colour in the yard and the bees are all over them. I think we will try some larger varieties next year instead of relying on self sowing.

I've started to pull some carrots--mostly to give the rest some additional room to bulk up before winter. These yellow carrots always do well, even in the poor soil I planted them in this year. The knife is 12 inches long and these carrots are a bit on the small side of yellowstone.

We're slowly picking the apples off the tree. They are super red and ripe (the come off very easily). They are also quite tart (more of a baking apple). Jess sliced ten today and they are outside in the dehydrator on their way to being a delicious winter snack for her lunches. Earlier this week we dried some mint and also some celery leaves (I plant soup celery rather than stalk celery this year and it was much more successful).

The potatoes have finally died down. I am going to leave them for a week or two (other projects require immediate attention). I did dig one plant to see what they were like and get a potato for dinner. I got five potatoes from the plant: two baseball sized and three that are about softball sized or more (the beer bottle is for scale).

Today I made some paneer for a curry we'll have tomorrow night. We also made a lovely veggie pot pie for dinner. Most of the veggies and the stock were from the garden (had to buy a pepper and a turnip).

While that was cooking, I started picking the pole beans that were dry.   Most are still green and growing but some of the lower beans are finished.

I'm always struck by how much work goes into getting any reasonable amount of beans! You go to the store and grab a half litre bag for a few dollars and that is quite a deal! We should have a good haul of these small white beans (about twice the size of a tic tac). We also have a bunch of scarlet runner beans that are still green.

Whew.!Now I'm going to sit down and crack one of the beers we made this summer. Tomorrow entails doing some saucing to keep on top of the tomatoes.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tomato, Zucchini, Salsa

It hasn't been a great year for tomatoes (lots of rain but not enough heat). Despite this, tomato season is upon us. So far we've kept up with the ripe ones by eating. The fruits got a bit ahead of us this week and we had some extras.

Fortunately, the zucchini plants have also been producing like mad. The only solution is zucchini salsa. Jess and I made some over our lunch hours the past few days.

So far we've only pressure canned five litres. There are the ingredients for batch of similar size this weekend. Just waiting for the the tomatoes to get slightly riper. The salsa comes in handy during the winter for adding spice to various recipes as well as a condiment. If there are extra tomatoes, we'll maybe sauce some.

While we wait for the beans to mature and begin to dry out, we have the sweet peas to enjoy. Oe of my neighbours has then ten feet high on a trellis.  I have had less luck and am thrilled that a few survived long enough to flower! I will interplant with the beans again next year.

The front yard is half done with the garlic and onions curing. I have planted some buckwheat as a cover crop. On the north part of the lawn (out of frame to the left) we are thinning the carrots and the beets (by eating them) and letting some get larger for storage. I planted mostly cylindrical beets this year and will maybe look at some globe-shaped ones for next year.

The last of the "must do" canning projects this year is crab apple jelly. Today during lunch we dashed out to a local tree and picked eight gallons. I will start to cook these into liquid this evening and maybe make jelly on the weekend.

After that, we'll maybe unearth some potatoes and start some clean up on a few beds. And then there is a wine kit to look into... .

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Rain, radishes, black berries and beans

So, it has been a pretty damp summer, with major rain storms every day at 4 (kind of like living in Calgary...).  This was a few days ago with the sun to the west streaming in as the clouds dumped buckets of water!

The veggies are loving this. The zucchini are finally producing and Jess is baking zucchini bread as I type. I expect we'll have enough to make zucchini salsa again this year.

I harvested a 3x3 bed of long white French radishes. I saved a couple for roasting but the rest I pickled using garlic from the yard and some of the chive infused vinegar we made this spring.

The radishes were lovely to look at. Nice and crisp and snow white on the inside.

The tomato harvest is coming along. We're managing to keep on top of the ripe ones with a salad each night. But in a few weeks we're going to end up with a glut. Some I will juice and the sauce for use in the autumn.

Most of the potatoes are long done flowering and are looking about ready to wilt down and die before the harvest. Out back there appears to have been a rough Russian Blue in one of the best which shot up some flowers while we were on holidays.

In the front, the blackberry plant has more fruit on it that we've ever had and is also pushing out new canes. I suspect the wetter weather this year has helped it.

The bean vines are also really hitting their stride. These scarlet runner beans are up eight feet and are climbing past the top of the trellis onto the liliac bush and up towards a bird house. They are also producing lots of bean pods.

The back garden needs some soil amendments this fall to loosen it up (still too much clay) but the dill seems to have run wild to fill in the gaps. I must dead-head these plants before they go to seed!

Inside, we racked off the rhubarb wine again and will let it bulk age for several months before bottling. Sitting a month has helped clarify it a lot and the brief taste I got while racking suggests it is not too bad! I am hopeful we can open a beer tonight and see how it is developing.