Friday, August 28, 2015

Tomatoes, onions, apple pie and salsa

Last weekend was a bit of a blur of canning. I used the tomato mill to grind up about six litres of sauce. Some I have frozen for use as sauce for tomatoes and pasta.

Some went into zucchini salsa. And, only a few days later, I see we have enough tomatoes for another batch despite a tomato-heavy diet this week!

Jenn and Jess were recruited to dig onions while I supervised and kept an eye on the nearby wasp nest. These are now curing in the garage while I have moved the garlic into the basement for storage.

The beats have been super productive and we have steamed, roasted and barbecued them.

Alas, I did not plant enough green beans this year and I have run out. I wonder if the drought affected production. They were super tasty and I'm glad I blanched a froze some.

Friends gifted us some apples so I canned a gallon of apple-pie filling and put two tarts into the freezer. We picked our own tree last night and will pick a friend's tree tomorrow so I suspect we'll be saucing. Jess is making some sort of dutch apple pie as I type.

As usual, the cucumbers are coming on late and I think we'll be lucky to get any. I will try them in the ftont next year to see if I can get them a bit more sun.

I started digging potatoes from the back garden. Nice suds but not very many (maybe a drought issue?). It may also be that it is just time for us to buy some new seed stock.

The pumpkins are really doing well. This is the most successful at about 12 inches in diameter.

 I'm off to water the tomatoes and beets. Again!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and apples

The harvest season has commenced, if a few weeks early. The tomato plants are yielding a good amount of ripe tomatoes for eating plus enough paste tomatoes to contemplate making more zucchini salsa this weekend. Next year I need to plant more tomatoes to make sauce.

We're also starting to see some cucumbers. These are always so slow to grow in our yard (maybe a bit of shade is the problem). I had planned to have the cucumbers climb towards the deck but I see an errant scarlet runner bean got there first. The cucumbers are helpfully sprawling forward into the space left by the onions.

The pumpkins are starting to turn orange. I'm hopeful we'll get five. I love the look but begrudge the space they take up.

By the driveway, the second planting of radishes germinated. I have three kinds in here. This bed already yielded spring radishes and a crop of buckwheat (green manure) so I'm hopeful these radishes will mature before the weather turns.

A friend kindly let us glean their apples the other night so we have a couple of gallons to make pie with. We also have about 60 apples on our tree (first year it has had a mature crop). I'm not sure what we'll do. Some we'll eat. Others will likely get sauced or perhaps canned as apple pie filling.

Out front the beets and carrots are maturing. I planted some buckwheat in a spot where I harvested the garlic and potatoes. It seems to be growing well and I caught this moody shot of the bed during a shady part of the day.

This weekend holds some canning and a further harvest of onions and potatoes.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The bees!

I've got some sort of bee obsession going this year. Maybe it is that I have my camera/phone on me all the time and simply catch more shots of bees?

The fellow above was struggling to get airborne off the dirt. So I picked some yarrow and enticed him (her?) onto it them held it up in the wind And off he flew, letter me get a nice shot of him launching. This was a huge bee--easily the side of the first phalange of my thumb.

The bees love the sunflowers and often just hang out while working the nectar. I can get pretty close (often within 6 inches) before they get annoyed.

Alas, my joy with the bees is tempered by my hatred for the wasps. I have two nests in the yard. One is out of the way and I am going to let autumn rid me of these wasps. The other nest is right by the front door in the dirt. I'm currently flooding it in the hope they will sod off.

But back to the bees. The diversity of bee types is amazing. Who knew there were so many different kinds and such small ones as well.

And now back to planning for the looming apple-tomato double onslaught.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Salsa, garlic, pumpkins, tomatoes and peppers

It has been a very busy week in the yard and I kind of fell behind blogging! I hauled out the pressure canner and turned several very large zucchini into salsa for the winter. 

I will do another batch (or maybe two) later in the summer. Currently have the zucchini beaten back and waiting for the tomatoes to ripen.

We also pulled the garlic and I have hung it in the garage to cure. It is pretty good sized. I will give the plants a bit more space next year and see if that helps the yield. I suspect water was an issue this year.

We have five pumpkins set (and maybe a few more about to). So fat the hail has managed to miss our yard and the pumpkins are getting bigger each day.

They use a lot of space and I might prefer to have a different kind of squash (butternut makes a nice soup) but these are lots of fun to watch.

I also started to haul out some beets and a few onions. We made a kale-zucchini-potato-onion soup entirely from the garden.

Around front I started make some slight changes to the north beds (with the garlic and a few potatoes out)--basically closing the rows on the north end to get an extra 16 square feet (once I get them all done). I also planted some buckwheat as a green manure. The buckwheat we were growing in the back was cut down and turned under and I planted a late crop of radishes.

I have been watching the tomatoes for signs of ripening and we're starting to see a lot of blushing and few are red (almost red enough to harvest). The paste tomatoes have a bit of blossom end rot from the drought on the earliest fruit so I pulled the off. The late fruit seem fine.

I also have a lone green pepper! Whatever it is that I am doing wrong, I only ever seem to get one pepper from my plants. I will toss this guy in the salsa.

I expect the apple harvest to start soon. Not sure I am physically ready for that kind of onslaught of work, but I may be able to cajole Jennifer and Jessica into helping given how much they like apple sauce.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jasper community garden

There is lots to see in Jasper, but one of my favourite stops is their community garden. It is located just up the street from the train station and has gorgeous views of the mountains.

The garden is surrounded by an elk fence (the challenges of mountain gardening!) and contains 40ish 4x8 foot plots. Over the years, gardeners have also started colonizing some of the empty spaces in the garden and there are mini-gardens tucked into corners everywhere.

The diversity of vegetables and flowers is pretty amazing, especially given the shorter growing season and space constraints.

Some folks have also expanded their beds. This stone expansion sits in front of a regular wooden bed.

This gardener has gone upwards, with a pea trellis capped with an inverted light fixture for basil.

I suspect frost, fires and animals make for some interesting challenges, but it is a lovely use of otherwise dead space in the townsite.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Zucchini season means salsa

We took a short vacation to Jasper. While we were away, the zucchini plants suddenly started producing huge fruits! (The one pictured below is resting on a four-inch fence board.)

The largest one is about the size of a newborn (24 inches long, maybe 10-12 pounds). I put a basketball in the photo below for scale. We grew three different types of zucchini this summer after a total failure of the zucchini crop last year (which is weird because zucchini never fails; I assume it was something I did).

Jenn started chopping right away because she likes zucchini salsa. I have skinned the tomatoes and everything is ready for canning today. Need to haul the pressure canner up from the basement. It is a cool day with some rain so that will make the canning less tedious.

We pulls some walla walla onions from the garden to go in. We'll make another batch later this summer when the tomatoes are ready. Jess also made some saskatoon-lemon-zucchini cakes (wow!) and we passed one onto the neighbour to make zucchini noodles.

The sunflowers in the front are just starting to bloom, to the delight of the bees. And behind the garage, the swiss chard has gotten big enough to start harvesting and drying for soup stock ingredients.

I see someone (Jessica...?) dropped a bean seed in the lawn this spring. Not sure what to do about that. The lack of rain means mowing has been minimal this year so I might just leave it.

The buckwheat we planted as a green manure has come up and is flowering so we'll cut it down and leave it to rot. Then I think we'll put some radishes in as the pickled radishes I made earlier this year are amazing.

The garlic out front is also just about ready to be harvested and cured. Sadly, the berry season seems to be coming to an end in our yard. But that means we can start to transplant some raspberry canes to make room for more veggies in the front yard.