Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tomatoes, potatoes and corn

I had a busy birthday weekend with house guests and whatnot. We took a trip out to Wabamun and I ran across a bunch of huge hawthorne bushes (tree sized) at the provincial campground.

Back home, the tomatoes are ripening in big batches, which are vastly greater than we can eat or give away. Fortunately, Jenn was at Lee Valley...

And I'm now the proud owner of a tomato grinder. I was skeptical this would work but it was pretty slip and managed to reduce a bunch of blanched tomatoes to 4 litres of juice and pulp and separate the seeds and skin out in about 5 minutes.

It was also much sturdier than I expected when I looked at the box. We now have a bunch of juice cooking down into sauce in the crockpot that we'll freeze. I (more virtuously than thou) turned the tomato "waste" into soup stock for the week.

Jess and I then went and picked the corn out front. Not a huge haul but a fun bit of stunt gardening.

Then we dug two small rows of potatoes. I'm holding a blue caribe and there are red pontiac and yellow banana fingerlings in behind. With a return to warm weather, I have some yard clean up to do this week.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Apple sauce, snow and tomatoes

Recognizing that the weather is cooling and that this coming week is crazy for Jennifer and me at work, I decided to spend Sunday processing veggies. We picked our last apple tree of the year (I hope!) Saturday night and I started saucing about 9 am.

Eighteen litres later, we had finished with about half the apples (remainder above). Jenn then turned the ripe tomatoes on the window sill into sauce (which we froze) and we sat down to dinner as the rain started. I went out to fiddle with the dehydrator on the back deck, noticed the cold and checked the weather.

After some handwringing, I decided we needed to pull the pin on the tomatoes because of the risk of frost. I pretty much let the plants do what they wanted this summer instead of pruning and tying them up and we had a lot of bushy plants. In the rain and twilight, we started picking. And picking. Then got more buckets and picked some more.

We ended up with 10+ gallons (and we've been picking non-stop for a month). Above you can see about 35% of the haul. Because of the mud, we ended up washing them all last night and then employed every container we could find (e.g., roasting plans, boxes, baking sheets) to house them in piles two deep on the window sills.

There are well over 1000--which future Bob is going to have to deal with when they start to ripen. Man, is he gonna be pissed at me... . It did snow last night (mostly melted) so I think we made the right choice in the end. Not sure what the beans, corn and squash will look like when it warms up today.

The good news is that the canning closet is starting to look pretty full. I have adjusted quantities based on what we used and didn't use last winter and it feels pretty good. I will spend lunch maybe making more dried apple rings and racking off the first batch of cider.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday cidering

With Jenn and Jess taking a cake decorating case, this morning seemed like a good time to press a second batch of juice for cider. I fiddled with my process a bit and had a nice time.

I managed to get over seven gallons. Five are in the basement awaiting some honey and yeast (first time trying honey) while the other two are in the fridge. Some I will freeze for a winter treat.

After prepping, pressing and cleaning, I spent the rest of the morning in the yard, water, harvesting and generally enjoying a lovely, sunny day.

The Jerusalem artichokes have not yet flowered but are as tall as I am. I am hopeful this means a  good crop of roots. For now, the ladybugs are enjoying a sunny, sheltered perch.

Tonight we have a last apple picking. We made apple butter this week so I expect I will end up saucing these (who needs more than gallons of cider?). Of course, I could make apple wine... .

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Apples, pumpkins and onion seeds

School's back in and there are signs of autumn everywhere. The apples in the yard have started to pink-up nicely. Our tree seems to finally be finding its feet with 20-odd apples, all of a good size. A tiny bit of maggot is evident but we can live with that (some of the trees I've seen this summer have been really bad).

The sunflowers and bees are both given' 'er all day long. Alas, the days are much shorter.

I tested the second patch of hawthorn berries yesterday at lunch and they too are lame-tasting. Much like rose hips--nice enough but not really worth the time to jelly when crab apples abound. So I'm going to scratch them off my foraging list and instead see about bagging some onion seeds.

The school garden nearby has been a roaring success despite limited attention all summer. The pumpkins they have are amazing!

The fall rye I planted out back as a cover crop is starting to come up. I almost "weeded" it (looks like crabgrass) until I noticed the uniform pattern of the "weeds".

We went out for a walk last night and saw a double rainbow (much brighter in person--you can just barely see the second rainbow here).

Tonight I'm going to make apple butter from some of the remaining apples.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Apples, pole beans, hawthorns and acorns

The firsts half of the long weekend has been pretty busy! Friday night, Jess and I went and did a big apple pick. There were so many apples, we ran out of containers and I ended up leaving a few that I could have gotten on the tree. 

Of course, Jennifer noted that I was a bit old to fall out of an apple tree and that I ought to govern myself accordingly, so maybe it was for the best. We arrived home and found Jennifer had made pie crust (!) so some apples were in the oven within an hour of being picked.

Much of the past few days has been spent processing the apples and I'm down from 35-40 gallons to six or seven. Jenn promises more pies and I can always make some more apple sauce or apple butter. Last night, we also pitched the yeast into the apple cider I pressed on Friday.

The rest of the garden has been pretty relentless. The pole beans are ready! Some went on the BBQ last night and the rest I blanched and froze for soup in the winter. There may be another harvest, we'll see how long the frost holds off. The tomatoes are also fairly intense so Jenn put her home ec degree to work and made bruschetta.

Last night we went out for a ride and checked on the Hawthorn berries Jess ran across in the valley. These are ripe-ish and taste rather insipid. There is a second patch we'll try in order to see if we can get a richer tasting berry for jelly.

Poking around, we also noticed the acorns on the oaks are ripening. I've read these can we washed to get the tannins out and then roasted and candied. We might try a small batch this year.

The museum's flowers are also in full bloom--one of the highlights of fall for us.

Now back to the kitchen--soup stock is bubbling and the dehydrator needs to be loaded up with more apple rings. I dreamed of apples last night... .

Friday, August 29, 2014

Autumn berries and apples

It is the last week of summer vacation for Jess so we tried to spend some time outside. One lunch hour we walked down through the river valley--which was lovely.

The smell of high bush cranberries is omnipresent and they are starting to ripen alongside the chokecherries. I'm waiting on the hawthorns for this year's foraging jelly experiment.

On a lark, we went to an archery range. With all of the '80s power ballads, I expect Jess's "what I did this summer" essay could be entitled 'The summer my dad went all Ted Nugent on me'. We both had fun at the range and I hope we'll go back this fall.

The garden is mostly giving us tomatoes. This was yesterday's harvest of cherry tomatoes. I think I will need to oven-roast and freeze some of these as we cannot keep up. There were also half a dozen eating tomatoes.

I ran out at lunch today and pressed a bunch of apples to make cider with. I needed the space as we're picking more apples tonight.

The pressing went well and I got 5 gallons. I added some sugar and dosed with campden tablets. I'll pitch the yeast tomorrow and watch the bubbling begin. I'd like to do a second batch this year-depeends on how big the haul of apples it tonight.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Apples, garlic, tomatoes and potatoes

It has been a busy weekend, split between the bike, the garden and the kitchen. I finished processing the apples we picked last week. 

Most are awaiting cidering (this week, I think) and I turned the last five gallons into 10 litres of apple sauce. We're off to pick another tree tonight so I expect to be back at the stove tomorrow.

I pulled up the last of the peas (drying them for soups) as well as the hard-necked garlic. I got a number of really nice-sized bulbs plus some smaller ones. The thing about the small cloves is that home-grown garlic has so much more flavour than store-bought that tiny cloves are all you need.

The tomato onslaught continues. Between salads and giving some away, we've manage to stay on top of the cherry tomatoes.

The issue is soon going to be the eating and canning tomatoes, which are just starting to ripen.

We're undergoing neighbourhood revitalization (new curbs, sidewalks and roads). This is exciting but some of the design choices of the crews are interesting. This stretch has a challenging s-curve!

Out front our place, I pulled another row of potatoes. These were Russian blues (the empty row right in front of the sunflowers and corn) and turned out well. I got 5 gallons in 12 feet of row. Not bad given this was nasty clay that was underneath a tree last year.

I selected the best for next year's see and also put a few in the basement for storage. The rest are dinner over the next few weeks.There isn't enough time to get a cover crop on before the frost so I will just let the potatoes tops I dug in decompose and will then plant garlic here for next year.

The empty row in front has been planted with buckwheat. These are up about four inches. This will be squash next year (with room for the vines to crawl among the irises). I am hopeful the city will make it down out street with new sidewalks before the snow flies.