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.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


I finally got to winnow my mustard this morning. I wanted a time when it wasn't too cold and we got into the 60s today. Probably for the last time this year. I like to do this outside as it is very messy. It is also very irritating. I always use a breathing filter and long sleeves, pants, and gloves. I even got some of the bits on my face this time and ouch! I had to wash it off quickly.

I put the seed heads into a pillow case and stomp on them. Then I shake the pillow and all the chaff comes up to the top and the seeds and small bits go to the bottom. Then I use wind, either with a small fan or by blowing on them, to get rid of the small bits - oh what I'd give for a good set of screens for this. Lastly I went through the seed to pick out any bad ones. In the past I didn't do this but some had turned grey. Was it mold? I didn't want to risk it so I took them out. As you can see I ground some for ground mustard. It is better ground fresh, but I'm not going to do that every time I need ground mustard.

I harvested 3.7 oz from a 12 sqft spot. This is not a lot, but it was about the same as I got from the yellow mustard last year when I planted it in the spring. I also have another bag of seed heads drying, but they were picked a bit green. I don't know if the seed will ripen enough, or if like coriander it is good when green. But I want it dead dry when I winnow it as it makes the process go much faster. The seed heads don't break open if they aren't totally dry.

Next year I'm planning to grow it after the garlic so it will get planted next year at just about the same time as it did this year. But the good part is that it will have more space. 20 sqft instead of 12. 3.7 oz is not a lot of mustard for me. I use a lot over the course of the year. I use it whole in things like plum sauce and pickles and ground in things like dressings and mac and cheese. And both in prepared mustard. Needless to say this is not a spice that I'm sharing this year. I just hope it lasts until the next harvest. And I'm hoping the green mustard tastes as good or better than the fully ripe ones. Green mustard would look pretty in dressings and pickles. I probably oughtn't make any prepared though as green mustard would probably freak people out if I served it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What do you do with an eight pound cabbage?

The night before last we had a freeze which finally killed our beans. The freeze was a wake up call to start picking what needed to be picked in the garden. The first thing I wanted to deal with was the Michihili Chinese cabbages. The problem with them is that they are BIG cabbages. They get over two feet tall. They just don't fit in the fridge well. Sometimes I cut them in half so they will fit but the best way to deal with them is to use them when you pick them. I picked just one and one is a lot to deal with. The cabbage was eight pounds. That is a lot of cabbage.

First up was Peking Raviolis. My daughter had eaten most of them up before. She would take a packet of pork ravs and a packet of vegetable ravs and have them for lunch. So this time I elected to make a mix. I made enough mix for about 120 ravs. It takes me about an hour to make 60 (which is how many dumpling wrappers come in a packet). So I turned on the TV and got to it. I did half of them yesterday and hope to get the other half done today. Once they are formed I freeze them. If I have the energy for it, I'll do it again with the next cabbage next week. Sadly they don't take all that much cabbage. How much is 4 cups of chopped cabbage. A pound maybe?

The second meal to make was cabbage soup. This is so much easier to make. And I recruited my townhouse mate to help. So we multiplied the recipe by four and used up three pounds of cabbage.

Rav filling on the left, soup on the right.

After having a nice lunch of soup we packed up the rest. I had five pint containers filled for future lunches. And I still had a huge cabbage to eat. Sigh. Eight pounds of cabbage is a huge amount to go through. And I had run out of ground pork in my fridge. It seems all the cabbage recipes that I freeze use pork.

So I tried something new. I took a pound of cabbage and made pickled cabbage. But I'm not a fan. The recipe was way too sweet and way too puckery. Next time I'll tone it down.

Sadly at the end of the day I still had the above left to stick into the fridge. The size is a bit deceptive as it is 18" long. I found how it grew interesting. I love the spiral in the leaves, but it sure made it more of a pain to chop. Today I have other things to do as my MIL is visiting, but I did have time to make some coleslaw dressing so I'll chop some of that cabbage up and call it salad. That ought to get rid of another pound or so.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Harvest Monday, November 4th, 2013

Carrots were a big harvest this week. I picked three bunches, one of which didn't get photographed. I'm guessing the carrot harvest will be better than last year by about five pounds, but it will be eaten so fast. My daughter came home to take a year off of school and she is such a carrot lover. We have already eaten about a third of the carrots in just a month. Usually the carrots last me until late spring. But they are so good. We ate all the Mokums already and have started on the later and bigger SugarSnax. They are nice and sweet as we have had some cold weather.

Spinach has been a big hit with me and my townhouse mates. The rest of the garden doesn't really get sun from October on - I grow the vegetables and hold them in the garden until I want to eat them - but the circle garden where the spinach is planted is one partially sunny spot, so they are still growing. I pick and a week or two later the leaves are all back. I've been eating a lot of spinach and mizuna salads.

And speaking of mizuna, I eat some Asian greens every week. This week a kohlrabi was added to the mix.

And since it was predicted to be somewhere between 24F and 29F last night I picked all the beans I could find. And the figs that were ripe. It got down to 29F but still no frost. Heck 28F is usually a freeze, not just a frost. I wonder if the beans will survive this too. I don't know why the plants aren't frosting over in such cold temperatures. But it did give me an extra quarter pounds of beans to eat with a meal this week.

And I made some fig jam with the figs from last week. A very small batch as I had just half a pound. I didn't bother to can it as I just made one jar and put it in the fridge.
  • Beans 0.27 lbs
  • Carrots 2.69 lbs
  • Greens 3.94 lbs
  • Greens, Asian 1.59 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 8.49 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 491.04 lbs, $1006.42
  • Figs 0.42 lbs

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, November 1, 2013

Still Slowly Cleaning Up

Over the last week I've been very slowly cleaning up. A little here and there. Above was the lettuce, celery, and herb bed. It didn't have much in it that was any good. The celery had been harvested and the lettuce was bolting. The parsley was turning yellow. The basil died eons ago to a mildew. So it all got pulled out and was spread with some sifted compost.

This the the after photo of the bed. I had forgotten to seed some mache this fall, but it self seeded itself right here. Not very thickly, but I might get a tad next spring when the snow comes off. And I have one winter savory plant. I haven't a clue what to do with it. I planted it because I didn't know what winter savory was. It turns out it has a lemon scent. If anything it reminds me most of lemon thyme. I figured it might be very different, like when I grew marjoram for the first time. I haven't harvested it. I don't know what to do with it. I suppose it would be nice in a salad dressing or with fish. But it isn't jumping up and screaming "use me". So it is getting neglected.

The other two beds I cleared out were the mustard beds. This is the experimental late mustard (planted early August) that didn't have time to ripen. I guess it made a good cover crop. The other bed (planted end of June), had its second cutting of ripening mustard. This cutting wasn't fully ripe, but I expect it to ripen inside in the pod. It ought to be fine. I'll use the earlier one for seeding next year though. I sifted through more compost and covered these beds up too.

I also pulled up and trimmed some older now dying plants. Kronos decided to help me break down the eight foot tall sunflower plants. He is still working on them.

I now have 6 beds left out of 17. Plus a few scattered flower beds in the yard. They contain spinach, cabbage, Asian greens, carrots, broccoli/chard, and kale. I probably have compost for one or two of them, but no more. I might have to purchase some compost next year. I didn't have to do that last year. The year before I had just two beds that needed extra compost. A friend of my townhouse mates brought some over for me (she owns horses). I'm so close to making enough for my own use, but I'm right at the edge and some years I just don't have enough.

I've been cooking and weirdly making salads during the cold weather. The above salad is so strange. It is spinach, mizuna, cucumber, and avocado. The latter is not from my garden. Yes I'm still eating cucumbers. I have just a few left. They are holding well. But I don't think I've ever made a spinach and cucumber salad. I've certainly never had garden spinach and garden cucumbers together before. My other salad was a winter salad. It had black beans, squash, apple, mizuna, and smoked Gouda. Oh is it good. I'll be having it again for lunch today.

And last but not least, I got a gift today. I mentioned to Susan that I loved guava jam, so she sent me one from her strawberry guavas. It is delicious. Thanks Susan. Guavas certainly aren't something I can grow here.