Sunday, September 28, 2014

Potato harvest

We harvested the rest of the potato beds out from today. These are a mix of yukon gold and pontiac reds. We also hauled out some burbank russets and some banana fingerlings--about 10 gallons in all from three 10-foot rows.

Jess contributed small hands and good eyesight while I did the heavy spading. The sod that is underneath the dirt has really started to rot nicely and I expect we could plant carrots out here next year without any trouble. Just a matter of smoothing out the rows and maybe dropping some lime and bone meal in.

The processing job is mostly done. I'm going to let the potatoes dry overnight before sorting them into keepers and users and next year's seed. Very little rust on these (the yukon gold are particularly free of spots) so mostly looking for size and shape.

While there are still some beets and carrots out back (and maybe even some more potatoes behind the garage--arrrgh), I'm too bushed to deal with them today. The weather looks good next weekend so they can wait some more. A bike ride and a hike through the valley are in order while the leaves are still pretty.

I see we also have tomatoes to process again. I wonder if i can sub this job out to the girl? I should probably also empty the rain barrel before things get too cold!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Caragana seeds?

The last few days have been lovely ones for a walk in the valley as the leaves start to change. Te key has also been amazing a blue.

The valley smells like autumn, including high bush cranberries. These aren't on my foraging list this year (as no one liked me cranberry jelly a few years back).

But something I have run across are that caragana seeds are edible. I knew the blossoms were edible (taste like peas) but the seedpods you hear cracking on the late summer heat contain edible seeds. They are small and hard. They soften after a minute in you mouth and taste like a legume. They'd likely be best boiled in a change of water. Fortunately caragana are plentiful as you'd need to collect a lot to make a meal!

Autumn is also the time to spot next year's wild asparagus plants as their foliage turns a beautiful golden colour.

I went out and cut down most of the remaining rhubarb last night. I've been meaning to make a drink out of it and maple syrup. Boiled, strained, added a bit of lemon and am chilling in the fridge. I would think a bit of water and sugar will be necessary but tastes lemon-aide-like.

The bleeding tomatoes are again demanding attention as the ripening continue. Some will go into a salad tonight. I will maybe try some salsa recipes this weekend.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Freezing tomatoes and carrots

The tomato onslaught in waining but still requires periodic attention. Today I turned yet another tray into sauce to freeze.

The tomato press I got for my birthday is a hoot to use and takes so much of the hand-labour out of the processing. Grind, dump in crock pot, let cook down and freeze. What a treat!

While I did spend much of the afternoon on the deck with a book (fiction no less!) I also pulled out half a row of carrots, blanched and froze about 18 cups for winter soups and stews. There is still quite a bunch in the yard but the weather looks fine so they can wait.

Tonight I hope to get a walk or bike ride in. Groat Road reopened at some point which is a nice climb to finish my bike ride with (easier on my knees than the Ramsay Ravine).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Storing beets and carrots for seed

I've been planning on storing some carrots and beets over the winter in order to try and grow some seed next year. Last year I tried to overwinter them in the ground but they rotted (leaving curious cylindrical holes in the garden).

This year I'm going to try storing them in the basement in damp sand. I selected a bunch of golden beets as well as some yellow stone carrots. Since I was short on golden beets, I decided to also throw in some other beets to see if different types stored differently.

The trick seems to be using big, clean veggies, cutting off the greenery and then packing them in damp (but not wet) sand so they don't touch. Big was no problem. The Yellowstone carrots often grow to 10 inches or more (like the one above).

I put a bit of sand in the bottom, plunked them in, filled with more sand and done. I fit about 17 really big carrots in which should be enough to get at least one batch of decent seed next year. I layered the beets. Two 12 litres (2.5 gallon) pails needed almost 50lbs of sand for fill. I'll try to remember to report the results come spring.

I also racked off both carboys of cider to let them bulk age. The one sweetened with honey had a much longer ferment than the one sweetened with white sugar. If I have the gas, I'll start cleaning up the yard and putting some lyme and bone meal in the beds this afternoon.

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.