Monday, December 30, 2013

Harvest Monday, Decepmber 30th, 2013

The last Harvest Monday of the year seems like a good time to do an overview of my harvest totals. This year I'm going to do a comparison from the last two to three years. I've been in the house for three years and have kept track every year. I know that some people think I'm a bit crazy to track my harvests as it is added work. The weighing isn't all that much work, but you have to remember to do it every time or the numbers don't mean much. Putting it into the spreadsheet doesn't take long either. I keep a sheet of paper tacked onto the fridge where I keep the numbers. Each week before Harvest Monday I put the numbers in. So I don't keep track of each and every day, but each week has a column in my spreadsheet. So I know in general when the harvests started and ended by the spreadsheet. This is very useful information when you are planning a garden. And this summer it was very very useful as I was gone for two weeks in the middle. It let me plan when to plant certain crops like beans and corn, so the crop wouldn't fruit while I was gone and I wouldn't miss my harvests.

This is going to be a long post so I'll put the link in at the top so it is easier to get to.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Now on to the rest of the post.

Three Years of Harvests

2013 2012 2011
Total 529.8 732.5 593.2
Alliums 43.4 50.1 46.6
Asparagus 0.1 0.2
Beans 37.9 31.9 28.1
Broccoli 8.1 22.8 7.1
Carrot 23.7 36.0 42.3
Corn 27.7 30.6 11.7
Cucumbers 58.0 37.8 25.0
Greens 96.7 137.2 63.8
Greens, Asian 60.6 102.5 57.4
Herbs 9.5 15.2 7.5
Melons 48.5 28.1 17.8
Peas 12.0 20.4 18.8
Roots, Assorted 7.0 15.4 7.5
Squash, Summer 15.5 19.8 17.7
Squash, Winter 50.9 90.4 27.5
Sweet Potatoes 30.2 65.4
Solanums 28.7 214.4

Three Sisters Crops

Another use of tracking harvests is to determine what is and isn't working in the garden. Since I've gotten here I've been trying to figure out the best way to grow the three sisters crops - corn, beans, and winter squash. Each year I've grown them differently. Since I could grow the nightshade crops in 2011, I didn't have as much space for my crops. I had 2/3rds the space. And this year I put even more space into beans. If I normalize for the space allotted I'd get a table more like this:

Total 71.4 102.0 67.3
Beans 19.0 21.3 28.1
Corn 18.4 20.4 11.7
Squash, Winter 34.0 60.3 27.5

2011 I grew them all as a three sisters plot. It allowed for very little squash being harvested and squash is one of my winter mainstays. And the corn was shaded way too much to grow well. At least the beans were happy. All in all it was my lowest year. There was nothing else extra to speak of this year. Diseases were about normal. Things germinated OK. I did learn that even if I think two corn varieties are genetically compatible, I can be wrong about it. This is the last year I would grow more than one variety of sweet corn. I'd get different harvest times by planting at different times, not from early and late corn varieties.

2012 I grew a two sisters crop and a separate bed of beans. I had pole beans in a 1' strip on the north west side of the bed and bush beans in the rest of the bed. The bush beans were shaded in the hot part of the day by the pole beans which isn't all that good, but couldn't be helped. Bush beans nearer to the fence (and thus in a more shaded part of the garden) were noticeably less productive than the ones closer to the brick path. This was a hot dry year. I had trouble with corn germination (Ambrosia corn) so there were gaps in the bed. Not all the corn produced ears. And yet the corn production was the best ever. Ambrosia produces some big ears. Bean production was decent. And the squash production was the best ever. It does fine with the partial shade under the corn - though I do give it three feet at each end that isn't shaded.

2013 I grew a two sisters crop since it worked out so well. I did have issues with squash germination in one bed and had to reseed very late with a quick maturing squash. It really brought the squash yield down. So I know the low yields weren't a problem with the method of growing. The beans were done in pole bean blocks and bush bean blocks. I put pole beans all across my 4' bed. I had a lot of problems with rust growing this way. Also the pole dried bean production was much lower than normal. I have one spot that is much hotter than usual and usually grows heat loving summer crops better than usual, but it didn't work with the beans. The bean towers shed water too much and I had to resort to hand watering that section. The year was hot and dry, but not as hot as 2012. I grew Serendipity corn which germinated well but as you can see from the numbers didn't produce as well. The ears were weirdly narrow. And it tasted a bit too grassy for me.

So what does all this mean? I'll stick with the two sister plantings. They work well. The underplanted squash does its job of keeping the raccoons out of the corn. I even saw a raccoon in the garden during the height of the corn season and no ears were taken. I'll have to be extra careful about making sure the squash germinate on time. In one bed I had to replant with Early Butternut this year to make sure I'd get a crop and it just doesn't produce as well for me. Pole beans will go back to being planted along the north west or north east edges of the beds as they grow much better that way. Ambrosia wasn't as bad of a corn as I thought. Even though it had spotty germination and some stalks didn't produce, its overall production wasn't bad. This year I'm trying another variety though - Honey Select. Maybe it will have the best of both worlds.

Greens and Peas

So what else didn't produce as well this year? Well Greens and Asian Greens didn't do as well. The Asian Greens were easy to tell with two differences. In 2012 I grew bok choy and tatsoi in the circle garden that gets full sun in the shoulder seasons. This year it was in the main garden which isn't as warm in the springtime. I also direct seeded all of it so the plantings were closer and just more. When I grow them from transplants they are earlier but I can only grow so many. If I can get them out by June 1st I can do the circle garden again every year. I'm going to be planting my melons and sweet potatoes there and they don't need to go in until June. The other big drop in production is the Napa Cabbage. I've had issues in growing this kind of Chinese cabbage in my garden (Michihili types are so much easier). This year they were taken down by the earwigs. The heads were pretty much inedible. I'm not sure what to do about this. I'm going to try again, but the reality is that in bad earwig years I'll just not have a Napa cabbage harvest.

For greens and peas the question is harder. And is probably more weather based. The drop is more across the board. And the answer is probably just the weather. 2012 was the year that didn't have much of a winter preceding it. We were a whole zone higher in temperature than we normally were. And I planted peas and spinach in February. Our ground usually isn't unfrozen until mid March. OK so maybe the increase in yield is pretty obvious. And it may account for some the the difference in the Asian Greens too.


The cucumbers were a resounding success. They were given a 1' row along the back on one of my beds - 8' long - and produced 57 pounds. They win the ticket for best production for unit space at 7.2 pounds/sqft. The runner up was chard at 5.2 lbs/sqft. The cukes produced 20 pounds more this year than last and were given less space. I put in as much of their trellis as I could early on then covered them with a row cover. Once they started vining very well I took the cover off and pounded in the rest of the trellis stakes and tied the cukes up. This kept the cucumber beetles down in the garden. It worked surprisingly well. Though the cukes did sulk for a week after they were untangled and tied up. Needless to say I'll be doing this every year from now on. Go cukes!

I planted the zucchini later than usual and I tried covering the zucchini with a row cover this year early on. And once I thought the squash vine borers were gone, I opened it up. I didn't have the early glut then the paucity early on. They produced slowly and longer. One plant never produced though it put out enough blossoms. The plants seemed weak. And they did have some SVB damage, but a lot less than usual. I think I have to do a better job of tacking down the row cover. Those SVBs are really good and finding the plants under the row cover. One day I found them swarming outside the row cover with one inside. Sigh. SVB=3 Daphne=0 Some year I'll get it right. Of course do I really NEED more zucchini. Well probably not. I'm not the biggest of zucchini fans. But zucchini is one of those things I'm supposed to give away constantly in the summer until all my neighbors get sick of it. And I don't. Even my townhouse mates didn't get much if any.

The melons did extremely well this year. I think part of the reason is the lower cucumber beetle population. The other is where they were planted. They were planted in the circle garden which is built with brick and has a brick path on two sides. So it was nice and warm. The circle garden is also sunnier. I also didn't try to trellis them for the first time ever. I planted 8 plants, each in a 4 sqft area. Most plants produced one perfect and huge melon (an average of 6 lbs each). Of course it was a great melon year as during our harvest time we didn't have much rain at all. So no splitting. I wish I could order that every year.


The herbs were a problem this year. Well three herbs. I had my sage die at the end of last year so I didn't get much sage. I did plant more. I think I have three or four scattered around the garden now. In my last garden they couldn't be killed, but here they seem more fragile.

Two of the three rosemary varieties died. Only Arp remains. I propagated it by burying its branches under the soil for a while until roots had formed. I now have two more plants scattered around the garden. Location is important. The foundation area is warmer and more protected, but the other rosemarys died there last winter I think because the foundation is also sometimes too dry. Hopefully my Arps will live somewhere each winter. Well actually hopefully they will live in all three places every year. Then I could collect a lot and share with the neighbors.

The basil this year gave me three pounds fewer leaves than last year. They ended up with Basil Downy Mildew. My first encounter with it. Sigh. Basil used to be such and easy plant. So often we seem to get new diseases coming in. This one came originally from Uganda and moved up to Europe before hitting the US. It is a seed born illness and spread by wind. I'm pretty sure it wasn't seed born with me as I used the same basil seed last year as the year before and didn't get it. I hope this year it stays away. I missed the massive quantities of basil in the summer. If it turns out to be really bad in future years I'll start planting resistant varieties like Spice.

This and That

I think the alliums were a bit low this year because I used a row cover over the onions. It does cut down on the light. But I think the useability is higher that way. I probably threw away half of last year's onions, but never updated the spreadsheet. I'm contemplating buying some fabric netting that might work to keep the onion flies out without cutting out so much light. I may have to stitch some together to make it wide enough.

The broccoli is problematic. I thought I had a good variety that would produce over the summer, but I think I went a bit too hard on cutting the plants back after the first harvest. I'll be kinder next year. I'm also going to add another variety. The carrots were a victim of my summer vacation. Though I put them in the day after I came home, that wasn't early enough with the increased shade the garden gets in the fall. Next year I have to get them in by mid July or they just don't have time.

Some things look like they are lower in harvests like sweet potatoes, but the reality is that I planted half the space (I needed it for the new asparagus bed). I took the best producers from the year before and planted just them. They should have produced more, but like the melons they really need to be planted in the circle garden for optimum production. Next year they will be.

I guess the only one I didn't talk about was the roots. Well if I'd remember to plant my radishes and turnips I'd get more. I also grew beets last year but not this year. So the numbers don't mean much.

Over all, my garden didn't do as well this year for various reasons. Part of it is what was described above. Part a two week vacation in the middle of July. Part of the weight differential was what I grew. I was doing some mustard trials. And I grew more dried beans. Mustard is probably the worst producer in the garden. And beans probably come in second worst. I still like to see the overall 1 pound/sqft mark though. I almost got it. If you look at my sidebar you will see that I have about 565 sqft in my raised beds (a guesstimated number as I don't know the exact area in my circle garden). But one bed has been put into asparagus this year, which produced nothing, and won't for a while. If I take that out (32sqft) than I have 533 sqft. I produced 530 pounds this year, so pretty dang close. But if I'm playing the game by the rules, I missed the mark and lost this year. Maybe with what I learned next year I'll win. And yes it is a game. Even with the lowest year's harvest I grow enough to feed myself. I just don't have much of an excess of harvests.

I hope you didn't get too bored with my year's trials and tribulations. Keeping track of everything is a little work. Some of the shortfalls I'd know about anyway, but some are harder to tell at the picking stage. I would have guessed that my bok choy did just as well both years, but the reality is that I might have picked 10-20 pounds more doing it differently. Now I'm not sure that I need 20 more pounds of bok choy. But my neighbors or friends might like it. CSAs haven't started yet when I'm picking the bulk of it. So my extra produce is more desired in the spring. About a tenth of my total harvest is picked before the farmers markets and the CSAs even start.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Harvest Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Well I've got nothing. At least no harvests. But I have been using up my preserved harvests, so I'll talk about that instead. For some reason I bought a few avocados this last week. I was really craving them. So for two lunches I had Black Bean Guacamole for lunch. I used my black beans, onions, and garlic. I do still have a bit of cilantro frozen, but I bought fresh. I wish I'd frozen more. I'll use up what I have quickly enough, but whenever I see some really good looking cilantro at the store I'll snap it up. If only I had a green house like my mother, I could grow it all year long. It has to be my favorite herb. I am over wintering some, so I ought to have some next spring. At least that is the hope. It doesn't always live, but it is always worth trying as it grows so well in the springtime.

Another use for those avocados and the cilantro was some avocado egg salad. No recipe. But very salsa like. Again it used my onions and garlic. And on the side I had some homegrown carrots. I picked two huge containers of carrots. We've eaten one of the containers already and we are making inroads on the second. They will not last the year for sure.

The bok choy lasted quite a while, but the last was used in some wonton soup. Also from the garden were the carrots. And the wontons were made from Chinese cabbage and garlic from the garden.

I love Chicken Marsala. My favorite way to make it is to have my husband eat most of the chicken and I eat the mushrooms. Mark was talking about how people ate and about omnivores and vegetarians as he strives to cut them meat down a little in his diet. I'm very much an omnivore, but as this dish shows (and most of the above dishes) I don't eat mainly meat centric meals. When I make my husband a hamburger I usually eat my homemade bean burgers. We went out for Chinese food the other day and had Cashew Chicken. He picked out the chicken and I ate the veggies and cashews, with a little chicken added. I don't think I could cook vegetarian because my husband won't eat vegetables. How would he eat? And with my food sensitivities I'd never get to eat out again (except white pizza). Most vegetarian options include tomatoes, eggplants, or peppers. But the vegetarian option is a lot healthier which is my main reason for cutting down on meat. Like vegetable gardening my main reason for doing it isn't to save the world. But I do appreciate that side effect.

Next week will be the last Harvest Monday of the year and will be an overview of the tally and harvests. What went right and what went wrong.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gift Bags and Snow

This last week I was finishing up the holiday bags for my neighbors. For the first time I have a dog in the house for the holidays, so of course I made some dog treats.

The rest of the contents was just for the humans. The first thing in the basket that I made was the strawberry jam last summer. All the strawberries came from my yard. Since I was making so much of one thing I made the jars small little jam jars. The other canned items varied. Some got Rhubarb Butter from my rhubarb plants. Some got Plum Chutney. Some got Plum Syrup. The plums came from a friend's tree. I don't know who got what as I randomly put them in the bags, but whoever got the Plum Syrup won the draw I think. There is nothing like plum syrup on a waffle. Yum. I wish I could have it for dinner tonight. The reason for the difference was that I didn't have enough of any of those to give everyone one. So I went through the pantry and picked ones I thought I had too much of.

On top of the jam you see two jars of mustard. Sadly two people only got one jar. But that jar, the Beer Mustard, was from my mustard plants. The other was a sweet mustard made from purchased powdered mustard but it did have some Italian seasonings from the garden. As with the other things, I haven't a clue who is missing the two as I just put them in randomly. The other jar is my homemade granola with a baggie of dried fruit. I find keeping the fruit separate makes the granola stay fresher longer. So I've started not adding it after cooking.

Then the sweet treats start. I have two types of fudge. There is chocolate fudge. And penuche fudge. The penuche is my favorite. It is harder and very crystalline, but still a favorite. This year the only cookie I made was a chocolate and cinnamon chip cookie. It was a new combination. I think I like chocolate and butterscotch better though. And last but not least doggie treats in the front for the two neighbors with dogs. Though those aren't sweet. My daughter tasted them and said they needed more beef bullion as they tasted just like crackers.

Last night it was snowing but we delivered half of the bags. My husband had had enough at the point as he has a cold. Tonight I'm sure we will try to deliver the rest. Last year we couldn't do one as they had left already for the holidays. So this year we are delivering them earlier. You would think that delivering to your neighbors would be very fast. But my neighbors don't all live on my street some are on the other side of my fence. In fact most of them are as our street is so tiny. There aren't even houses on one side of the street. Their driveways all go off of another street. So I have a lot of over the fence neighbors.

Since it had snowed yet again I had to shovel a path to the compost pile. Sadly I forgot to prop open the fence door. My townhouse mates use that to get to the compost pile. Usually I remember to do. It has to be done late enough that the remaining plants won't be eaten by the rodents and the soil won't be rototilled by the skunks. But early enough that the door isn't iced in by the storms. Well it was too late. I had to chip the ice off to pry open the door. Hopefully I'll be better at my timing next year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seed Order

Saturday night we got about six inches (15cm) of snow. Today we are going to get about that much again. Winter has hit, but at least it only got to about 6F (14C) last night instead of the 0F they were predicting. So things aren't all that bad. I decided a snowy day was a good day to finalize my seed order. Some varieties I've been growing for years and they are always the same. But some I keep trying for better. This year it was a hunt for better carrots to grow.

I've been growing Mokum and SugarSnax for years. I like Mokum for its wonderful taste. SugarSnax is decent but with a much better yield. But it needs a longer growing time and the last two years it just hasn't gotten it. I'm going to try to plant my fall crop earlier next year which will help. I've also decided I want to try two new varieties this year. Yaya was the first. I'm guessing it will be much like Mokum as it is a quick grower and known for its good taste. I'll trial it alongside Mokum next spring. I've decided that SugarSnax just doesn't make a good spring carrot. It gets too bitter.

The second is Bolero. I've been looking for a good fall storage carrot now that I've figured out how to deal with my carrot fly issue (with carrot fly damage I always figured freezing was the best storage solution). UMass Extention did a trial on storage carrots in 2011-2012. Bolero seemed to come out on top as it keeps its quality for a long time. I've read a couple other blogs saying that Bolero is a good late fall carrot which gets nice and sweet late in the fall. Johnny's recommends it as their best storage carrot too. Other catalogs recommend it as their best producing carrot.

My problem came in ordering. I usually order from two companies. Fedco is my mainstay. It isn't the typical seed company. It is a co-op that is geared to seeds that do well in the northeast. It is usually inexpensive (though it depends upon the seed availability from their suppliers) and has no shipping fees as long as your order is large enough. What it doesn't have is a pretty catalog with color photos. Or any photos. Pinetree is the other one I usually order from. It also has low cost packets and even though they do charge shipping they don't charge all that much. I usually just order a few fill in things from them. So I like them both. I can get a large selection of seed that isn't too costly.

Fedco sold Yaya so that was no problem. But neither company sold Bolero. Dang. Today I did a web hunt on the cheapest way to order Bolero seed. It turns out it is from Renee's Garden Seeds. But not through them. They charge $3.95 for shipping. But through Amazon I could get the packet from Renee and shipping was just $1.95. Weird. They were still the most expensive carrot seed bought as I had to pay $4.74 total. But I get to trial them next fall.

From Fedco: Windsor Fava Bean, Windsor Fava Bean, Agate Pinto Bean OG, Honey Select Yellow Sweet Corn, Lincoln Shell Pea, Legume Inoculant, Halona Muskmelon, Alvaro Charentais Melon, Cross Country Pickling Cucumber, Costata Romanesca Zucchini OG, Waltham Butternut Winter Squash OG, Mokum Carrot, Yaya Carrot OG, Sugarsnax Carrot, Evergreen Hardy White Scallion, Copra Onion, Redwing Onion, Space Spinach, Giant Winter Spinach, Arcadia Broccoli, Tango Celery OG, Perfection Fennel OG, Winter Savory.


From Renee's: Bolero Carrot.

I'd still love to try the Romanesco F1 zucchini that did so well in Michelle's garden this year. I always struggle with zucchini production as the squash vine borers tend to weaken the plants. But I love the taste of Costata Romanesca. Then again maybe struggling with zucchini production is a good thing. I haven't found a lot of non-tomato based zucchini recipes that I love. And for now I think I've ordered enough.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Harvest Monday, December 16th, 2013

I did succeed in harvesting one thing this week. Though it was put on the scale it wasn't worth writing down and putting in the spreadsheet.

I'm guessing this coming week will won't see the plethora of harvests that I saw this week.

You can see the kale poking its head out. But it looks like I won't get to the last of the tatsoi. Under the hoops is where it is. And that snow isn't melting anytime soon. Today will be in the 20Fs and tonight will get down to 1F. That's -17C for the rest of the world. Our typical low for the year is about -3F or -4F (-20C) and it is usually in January, our coldest month. So the cold has come early this year. The last three Decembers have had a low of 18.8F, 14.4F, and 16.1F. This doesn't bode well for January. Or my wrapped up fig trees. At least they are better wrapped this year than last year.

I did use up the last of my Michihili Chinese cabbage. I packed up three small bags measured out for making wontons.

I made coleslaw. With a mix of the Michihili and regular cabbage.

And I made stew with the last little bit. It was a kitchen sink stew, which of course means I added everything but the kitchen sink to it. From the garden I used carrots, sweet potatoes, both kinds of cabbage, onions, green beans, black beans, garlic, and the rosemary pictured at the top. I don't use a lot of meat in the stew. It really is more of a vegetable stew with a little beef added. And I have to confess that I like my normal beef stew better that just has the typical mirepoix with lots of onion and mushrooms. But I had no mushrooms and really wanted a beef stew.

My main challenge this week was to make an enchilada sauce that I could use ( I can't eat any of the nightshade crops). I started with the recipe here as the basic idea. But an enchilada sauce to me is a sauce made from broth and thickened with a roux and then seasoned. It also has something acidic in it which for a regular one would be vinegar, but I used lime here, though I wonder if 2 tablespoons would have been better. So here is my version of a nightshade free enchilada sauce.

Daphne's Avocado Enchilada Sauce

  • 1 T oil
  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 T flour
  • 1 c chicken broth (or veggie if going vegetarian)
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1/3 c cilantro chopped (use stems too)
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper

Saute onion in oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove from pan. Add oil and flour and cook for a couple minutes until just starting to color. Slowly add broth, whisking to keep from lumping. Cook for five minutes or until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat. Add the remaining ingredients and the onion mixture. Puree with a stick blender until totally smooth.

As you can see from the enchilada photo, I drown my enchiladas in sauce. Yum. The sauce makes about 2 cups and I use about 1 cup for my two enchiladas. The enchiladas don't have the typical innards as I used black beans with chopped red onion and a little cheese. My husband and daughter had more typical enchiladas with canned enchilada sauce and shredded chicken added to the mix. Though my daughter complained I didn't add nearly enough cheese to her enchilada.

Making enchiladas for may family from a pepper based enchilada sauce is a real turn around for me. In the past it would have made me sick. But I seem to be a little better with it now. I can eat a bite of my husband's pizza or whatever and not react much if at all from it. Which is so nice. I don't have to worry about cross contamination as much. I can eat out without problems. Now if it would just all go away that would be so nice.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Penny Saved . . . Sometimes Ruins Your Mustard

Ten pounds of chocolate fudge was made yesterday.

I've been busy this week. I've started making things for my neighbors' holiday bags. I usually enjoy making treats and giving them away. Often the treats involve fudge as you see above. I think I've only given away baskets without fudge one year. Even though it was two decades ago (my daughter was six, she is now twenty six), I still remember that one. We made holiday cookies from around the world and the kids helped make little flags on toothpicks to mark which country they came from. Recently my bags have included fudge, jam, and lots of cookies. This year I want to add a little bit of more healthy fare into it. I'm going to make some good for you granola. And I wanted to make some mustard. Today was the day I would make the mustard. All except the beer mustard as I don't have a good ale for that right now.

I got my three recipes together. A Dijon and two sweet mustards. I started with the Dijon. I picked a Sauvignon Blanc that was nice but not too expensive. I cooked it all up. I tasted it part way through and it was delicious. But after it was done it tasted terrible and bitter. What had gone wrong? I've made mustard before and not had a problem.

Discouraged but not stopped I made a honey mustard. I figured maybe the Dijon had cooked so long it had reacted with my pan (which is stainless and shouldn't react). But no. The honey mustard was thick without much cooking at all. And it too was just disgusting and bitter. To me it seemed like the salt tasted off. And I was right. I tasted the salt in my salt container and oh my gosh it was disgusting. Usually I use a Trader Joe's sea salt, but had run out this week. I knew I'd get there on Friday. I could have picked up some more expensive sea salt from the regular grocery store when I was there, but nope. I'd wait until I got to Trader Joe's. Since I had an old salt in the back of my cabinet, I figured it would be good enough until it was replaced. I have no idea what salt this was. It was recontainered into one of my own air tight containers years ago. I've never had a salt taste bad before.

So for the third mustard I used my canning salt. And oh the mustard tastes so good. Yum. So I tried to save a bit of money and I ended up having to throw away two batches of mustard. And even worse. That Sauvignon Blanc that I opened ought to be saved for more Dijon mustard. Nah! I'll just have it for dinner and buy some more tomorrow.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Harvest Monday, December 9th, 2013

Before the bitter cold moved in I harvested two more baskets. One was filled with mizuna and tatsoi. I had had some bok choy in the garden too, but it didn't survive the cold. It was looking very ratty. Luckily tatsoi is a lot more hardy.

I also harvested a basket of spinach, though I forgot to photograph it. It will be the last spinach of the year. I don't protect it and the leaf quality will start to go down hill fast as we see colder and colder weather. By the end of the week we might even see single digits (-13C and lower for those of you that use a reasonable measuring system for your temperature). The spinach will survive our temperatures with no problem over the winter. Most of the older leaves will have died by spring, but the new leaves will be quick growing.

  • Asian Greens 1.19 lbs
  • Greens 0.59 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 1.79 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 529.83 lbs, $1116.66

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dreaming and Cooking

It is that time of the year again. The Pinetree catalog has been here a while, but I only went through it once to see what was there. Once the Fedco catalog came it was time to be serious about it all.

I got my seeds together. The majority of them I keep in the fridge in airtight containers. So I have to let them get to room temperature before I go through them. I don't really take inventory anymore. I go through the catalogs as I look through the seeds. When I look at the kale I see how much seed I have and if I want to try other varieties. I see if the same seed I need from Pinetree is cheaper than Fedco or the other way around. I figure out how much I used last year and how much I might need this year.

I toss old seed as I go through it. Certain seed I always buy every year - spinach, carrots, onions, and corn. Each of these are important crops to me and their seed is often short lived. It would probably germinate the next year, but there is enough of a chance of a germination issue that I don't want to risk it. And especially with the three that I direct seed if it doesn't germinate on the first try it could limit my harvest. Especially with something like carrots. The spring crop is sown early and can take up to three weeks to germinate. If a batch doesn't come up I won't know there is an issue until way too late. I can't wait another couple of weeks as my rotations won't work out anymore. With spinach the earlier it gets up in the spring the better the crop. Because once May 15th hits they start thinking about bolting no matter how long they have been in the ground.

Now I have a sheet of paper - well two sheets - that tells me what I need to order and probably from who. I haven't ordered yet but I'll go over it once more with my garden map out and make sure I've got everything covered. Dreaming about next year is always one of the great pleasures of gardening. All the fun and none of the work. In my mind's eye everything grows well and the earwigs are nonexistent.

I've also been busy freezing things for the winter. I've been playing with new recipes. From squash sauce for pasta (oh how I miss tomato sauce) and lentil loaf instead of meat loaf to try to eat healthier.

I also made up an old favorite. I make a cheddar cheese biscuit pot pie. But when I make the filling I make enough for three meals and then I freeze two. All I have to do next time we eat it is defrost the filling and make some biscuits. I also made up a huge batch of Boston Baked Beans. They too got frozen in meal size batches. I much prefer cooking in large batches and freezing. That way I have faster meals when I need them.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Harvest Monday, December 2nd, 2013

I didn't write a Thanksgiving post, but you can be sure that I brought home grown food to Thanksgiving. I went out and picked the herbs fresh I needed. I figured there was just enough to weigh. Often I don't bother because the weight is negligible.

We also got another day in the 60Fs before it got frigid again. And though the ground was frozen still, the vegetables perked up and I picked the last of the broccoli.

And a pile of spinach. I still have more good leaves to pick out there, but they are only good if it warms up enough. I suppose if all I'm doing with them is boiling them, the limp leaves would be fine. Maybe I should consider it frozen spinach? My hands won't appreciate picking them, so I'll probably wait until we get an unusually warm day. And if not, they wait until spring.

And I tried an very successful experiment. I love pizza, but since I can't eat tomatoes without getting sick, I've been experimenting with different kinds of pizza. My go to favorite has always been spinach (or kale), mushrooms, and onions sauteed in red wine as a topping. The red wine sort of substitutes for the tomato sauce. But not really. This week I tried using plum sauce as a tomato sauce substitute. It worked out beautifully and paired well with the spinach and squash with oregano and cumin as the herbs. The cheese was cheddar as my family likes that as a cheese much more than mozzarella.
  • Broccoli 0.97 lbs
  • Greens 1.00 lbs
  • Herbs 0.05 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 2.02 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 528.05 lbs, $1106.52

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Harvest Monday, November 25th, 2013

I only had one harvest this week. I harvested some mizuna, bok choy, and radishes. I picked them on Saturday as today was predicted to be only 30F and indeed it didn't get above freezing. Tonight will be in the teens. Brrrrrr. I figured I had better pick some in case things don't survive. I left all the tatsoi because it can handle it as can the spinach. I was surprised the radishes sized up at all. I planted them way, way too late. Basically after the area was in total shade all day long. But they performed decently given the lack of time and light. The Japanese turnips on the other hand are smaller than pea sized. I'll leave them in. I doubt they will survive until spring. But like I said to myself with the radishes. It doesn't hurt to try.

Though it looks like a lot in the basket, I picked only about a third of the mizuna and half of the bok choy. I probably won't use up what I have before it starts to spoil. I'm more than willing to risk what is out there to pick it fresh later in the year if at all possible. It isn't protected, so the odds of it living long are slim.

I probably should have picked the broccoli too and some spinach. The latter just because I could use some in the kitchen this coming week. But I had forgotten about the change in temperature until late. And I was freezing my butt off picking the greens I did get. I couldn't convince myself to go back outside to pick anymore after coming into the warm house.

I made a lot of things to eat over the week and all I could remember to take photos of is the dog poo... err the refried beans. I wasn't happy with them. The beans I used were Mexican Pinto that I got from the Seed Savers Exchange yearbook. Well they might look like pinto beans but they don't have that pinto flavor. They taste like generic bean. Which I suppose is good enough except when you want the pinto flavor. Which I do. So I probably won't grow them again. I might try growing out the Ga Ga Hut pintos. If that fails I might have to resort to bush pintos. It is so hard to find a good pinto pole bean.
  • Greens, Asian 2.41 lbs
  • Radishes 0.21 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 2.62 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 526.03 lbs, $1100.22

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Harvest Monday, November 18th, 2013

This was the last big harvest of the year. I picked the last Michihili cabbage. It wasn't nearly as large as the one I picked the week before. It hadn't headed up really. Not that it matters much to me if it heads or not. Though some people might only eat the blanched inner part, I like it all. Especially the dark green outer leaves. Well not the outer most ones that tend to be insect riddled, but one layer in.

In the basket are some tiny cabbages. I need to get them in earlier next year. They were just too small. Each of them are about a third of a pound each. I guess they will be good to make cole slaw for one. Even small they will keep pretty well for a couple of months but not much longer. Also in the basket are some kohlrabies. Both green and purple. I gave a couple to my townhouse mates. I don't find kohlrabi keeps that well. So when I want slaw it will be made from this first. Or I'll just eat them with dip. That is probably my favorite.

The big washtub was filled with carrots. I've packaged them up in some plastic boxes in the fridge. They will keep for a long time that way. Last year I chopped most of them up and blanched and froze them, but I'm not going to do it this year. I think I have enough space (barely) in the fridge to store them long term. Like the cabbages these also needed a couple of extra weeks to really size up well enough. I'm going to try to get them in earlier next year to see if I can get a great harvest instead of just an OK harvest. The one year they were planted in the circle garden they got to be 14" long and some over an inch in diameter and oh so sweet. But that is the sunniest and warmest spot and I'm reserving it for melons and sweet potatoes. And they just don't get out of the garden earlier enough for carrots.

And last but not least was another Chinese chive harvest. I used most of them in pot stickers, but I did freeze some. I haven't a clue if they freeze well, but they sure make my freezer smell yummy. Hopefully it doesn't also make the plum sorbet taste like garlic chives.

I don't have a lot left in the garden. I have more than enough Asian greens to pick until they freeze solid. I have spinach, some herbs, and I might have some broccoli. Maybe. When I pick it I'll find out if the aphids have ruined it or not. But the majority of harvest is in. Though the harvest was lower this year than in past years, it was still respectable and fed me well. And as I mentioned in my last post, will continue to feed me all winter long.

  • Carrots 9.06 lbs
  • Greens 5.56 lbs
  • Greens, Asian 5.80 lbs
  • Herbs 0.35 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 20.78 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 523.41 lbs, $1085.63

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Organizing and Taking Stock

I freeze a lot of vegetables over the year. Last year some of them got lost under everything. In particular the corn was buried and it never got eaten over the winter. I think I found it in May when I cleaned out the freezer. I vowed to keep that from happening this year. Something like corn should not be forgotten even if there are just a few bags worth of it. Especially if there are just a few bags. So I changed my strategy for eating this year. I have to eat from my freezer from about mid December to mid April. The shoulders are a little wider than that, but it is a rough estimate. So I have about four months of freezer eating. I don't want to eat all my beans and corn up right away and just be left with kale and spinach. I want my diet to be varied.

Inventory (each about a cup)

  • Kale 34
  • Spinach 16
  • Chard 18
  • Broccoli 26
  • Snap Peas 18
  • Green Beans 14
  • Fava Beans 7
  • Zucchini 14
  • Celery 6
  • Corn 8

So I decided to break the winter up into eight sections of about two weeks each. Each two week segment would have two bags filled with mixed vegetables. The two bags would have: 4 kale, 2 spinach, 2 chard, 3 broccoli, 2 peas, 2 beans, 1 corn, 1 fava, 2 zukes, 1 celery. Also I have squash (about 3 lbs/week), sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs/week), carrots, onions, garlic, and a small bit of cabbage.

This will ensure I eat a varied diet and that small things won't slip through the cracks. It will also let me know if I'm eating it on schedule. If not I'll have to endeavor to eat more veggies. Or if I really can't eat them all then give them to my townhouse mates to use. Oh and I also have a lot of pot stickers. I layered those bags into the veggie bags so I won't eat them up all at once. Well so my daughter won't eat them all up at once. Most of the above I'll be eating on my own. Some like the broccoli, corn, and Peking ravs I'll get help eating from my daughter. But the rest is all mine.

Now the freezer is all organized. The four lower cubes are filled with different things. One with homemade broth and soups. One with chicken and a small bit of beef from the farmers market. One with just veggies and pot stickers. One with a mix of home made things and veggies. There are also a few store bought things for my husband. He won't eat what I eat. So he gets premade things for lunch.

Personally I like to make my lunch. Above is a sort of dahl. I don't grow lentils so it is made with beans instead. From the garden it has beans, onions, garlic, squash, Chinese cabbage, mustard, and coriander.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Preparing for Winter

The Main Garden

Monday was the big push to make the garden ready for winter. Today the thermostat only reads in the mid 30s. So the cold could have been here to stay, but now they say we will have a big warm up and might even get back into the 60s next week. Well we will see. Either way the garden is mostly cleaned up and empty. I harvested all the carrots. I've stored them in the fridge. I've picked all the cabbages including another Michihili cabbage. Luckily it wasn't quite as big as the first one I picked. My refrigerator is stuffed to the gills. Sadly I haven't yet spread compost on these two beds. I'll have to get to it soon.

The Circle Garden

I took down the last of the large row covers and stored them all in the basement. Small things like my shorter bamboo poles and rebar have gone into the shed. Other things have been brought into the basement. The hoses have been disconnected. I'll have to go down into the basement soon and shut off the water and open the spigots for the winter. Basically most of the garden clutter has all been put away for the year. A few things remain but not much. I spent 4 1/2 hours total on Monday cleaning and preparing for winter. I was so exhausted when I was done.

Only a few beds remain standing. The spinach bed will live to the spring.

Likewise the kale and cilantro bed. Sadly I'm not harvesting from the kale. The aphids have really taken over. They will die over the winter and the kale will survive. So I'll won't be eating the kale until spring.

I will be eating from the Asian greens bed. I really ought to remove that cover and put on a better one that will keep the plants warmer. But I was too tired to get that done. And it has been too cold to do it the last couple of days. Yes just when my plants need me, I'm staying warm indoors.

The last bed left is the broccoli and chard bed. The chard is a goner. Though it lives the leaves are limp even on warm days. I'll pull them all in the spring. I'm going to leave the broccoli in over the winter. Granny said that she had some live and was shocked to find them growing in the spring. So maybe mine will too. I had thought I wouldn't harvest anymore here because of the aphids. But last I looked the aphids seemed to be gone. So I might get a last harvest. Just maybe.

Yesterday I was sick and tired. So I took most of the day off. I did have enough energy to make more cabbage soup for the freezer and for lunch. Today I made more pot sticker insides. I'll make them up into dumplings over the next couple of days. Then they will go into the freezer. I'll have made 240 over the last couple of weeks. It seems like a lot, but really it is only about a serving per week until the garden is up and producing again, and my daughter likes them too. So if we each have them for lunch every other week they will be all used up. If I bring them out for a party they won't even last that long.

This afternoon I'm testing a recipe for Thanksgiving. I'm thinking of pumpkin fudge. So I cooked up a batch of butternuts. Yes I call them pumpkins, but I use butternuts. The canned pumpkin you get from the store is much closer to a butternut than what you think of as a pumpkin. I did some steamed and cubed. I froze them so I can use them for additions to anything I need over the next month. The other half I pureed. I'll be making a pumpkin casserole this evening with our chicken dinner. But like the cubed squash, most will be frozen for easy eating over the next month. I find squash so much easier to deal with in large batches rather than cooking each squash individually.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Leaves and Protecting the Figs

Today we had our first snow. It didn't last and it didn't stick, but it is getting colder. One weatherman is predicting very cold temperatures tonight and tomorrow night. I was slightly scared of the ground freezing before I had everything out of the garden and things put to bed. Preparations started over the weekend. I had my annual leaf gathering trip. I borrow a minivan from a friend and I go out to collect leaves from my neighbors with some help from my husband. In our state you have to put your yard waste into large paper bags so it can be composted. It makes it easy to find leaves. Though occasionally you find other things in the bottom of the bags like branches. I usually have to go through them to get out the unwanted additions.

I fill half of the bins in my pallet compost area. I use the leaves over the year to make my compost. Also any that I don't use turns into leaf mold, and while it isn't as good as compost, it is still good organic matter to add to the garden. This year the leaves were bone dry. They don't break down well when dry, so in the last bin I made sure they were well watered as I added them.

Another thing I do with the leaves is insulate the figs trees for the winter. Figs are not truly hardy here. They will always die back to the ground. But at least they are hardy enough not to die totally. However if I protect them well enough their branches will mostly live. To help my plight out you can see I've trellised the plants into a candelabra. That way the main trunk of the tree is low to the ground and easier to keep warm.

Sadly there were still a lot of figs on the trees. They didn't have time to ripen. The trees are still only three years old. I'm hoping next year the trees will be more vigorous and get their branches grown quickly. But for now I picked off all the figs and old leaves and put them in the compost.

Once I had them off, I cut off every other branch and trimmed that branch down a bit. Figs have their main crop on new wood every year. It is the best tasting of the crops, but also the latest. I'm hoping to have a breba crop, which is a crop on one year old wood. It is much earlier. I don't know if it is possible here or not. But it can't hurt to try. If it doesn't work in future years I can cut the branches down to stumps to grow new wood every year.

To insulate my tree I have some 3/4" insulation. I stake the bottom so it can't move out then I fill the middle with dry leaves. Then I tape up the top so water can't get in. To one I added another layer of a tarp and the leaves went higher. I'm still experimenting with what works. I have seen a couple of other fig trees out in the neighborhood, but they tend to just use plain clear plastic to wrap up their trees. I've found that not good enough to guarantee the trunk won't die so I'm being more aggressive than that. If the trunks live then the branches have a better chance of growing quickly and putting out fruit before the cold hits.

And it took a while for the horizontal trunks to reach the ends of their 8' long trellis. In fact the Paradisio hasn't quite gotten there yet on one side. The Brown Turkey seems more vigorous and got there by the middle of the summer. I got most of the ripe figs this year from that tree and only one from the Paradisio. If the Paradisio ends up not performing next year I'll probably replace it with some other fruit.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Harvest Monday, November 11th, 2013

Last week was mostly about using up the huge Michihili cabbage. The only reason the scallions and carrots were harvested was because I needed them to make Peking raviolis with the cabbage.

Ditto with the garlic chives and cilantro. Garlic chives are weird for me. I so love the smell and taste and yet I never seem to use them for anything but Peking ravs. But in those they are essential.

I picked two bok choy for a dinner that never happened. We ended up going out to eat. I like bok choy as a green as my daughter will eat it. She won't eat spinach, chard, or kale. But she will eat bok choy. Well as long as it is fairly plain.

And I winnowed and weighed my ripe mustard. Which is good as I had run out of whole mustard and my ground mustard had barely any left.
  • Alliums 1.08 lbs
  • Carrots 0.85 lbs
  • Greens, Asian 9.11 lbs
  • Herbs 0.56 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 11.59 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 502.63 lbs, $1041.04

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.