Early August 2016

August 7, 2016

It’s been only a week since our last post, but I’ve been sick all week and it’s now raining outside so I decided to do a post.  We got our first figs today!  I’ve already eaten three of them and they are delicious.  Technically, some were ready earlier this week and became overripe on the tree (the ants and other bugs love that) so, if I had not been sick and doing only “must do” life things, I would have noticed the ripe figs and picked them earlier in the week.  The two fig trees are loaded with unripe figs, so it looks like it will be quite the fig year, presuming we can beat the critters to the ripe fruit.

We’ve gotten plenty of cucumbers and tomatoes this week as well as the first bell peppers and a few more jalapenos.  I’ve removed a few of the round 1 cucumber vines because they’re really starting to fade.  But the Round 2 vines started producing a couple of weeks ago and the Round 3 vines are getting ready to start making cucumbers.  It’s been a good cucumber year.  Usually Round 1 isn’t still around in August.

We’ve been processing the tomato bounty – we made roasted tomatoes last weekend which ended up in both the freezer for future use and a tomato casserole The Hubs made.  We currently have more tomato sauce cooking down on the stove.  We’ll package the sauce in pint freezer bags and freeze them for future use.  Some years we can our tomato sauce, but it’s really easier to just freeze it.

tomato sauce on the stove

tomato sauce cooking down on the stove

I pulled up all of the basil this morning.  It was infected with basil downy mildew, which apparently is a new-ish basil problem (first recognized in 2007 or ‘08).  Now that I think about it, the previous two years of basil also was done in by this fungus.

We have winter squash growing on the vines!  Winter squash vines are truly amazing.  Some of them are easily 40-feet long.  I’m really hoping the squash come to maturity because having squash detach from the vine before they’re ripe has been a major problem for us during the years, one we have correlated to “too much rain” during some aspect of the fruit’s maturing process.  We’ve gotten a lot of rain this week – 4.5 inches during one evening’s thunderstorms and over an inch just now (it rained for about 45 minutes).  Rain in these amounts is what we think have cause the past problem of fruits detaching from the vine.  Time will tell…

We also have several cantaloupe melons on the vines!  I’ve wrapped them in plastic chicken wire in attempt to deter raccoons, possums, and other critters that love to beat us to our ripe melons.

protected cantaloupe

protected cantaloupe melon

All of the recent rain has caused some mushrooms to sprout.  They’re not edible, but it’s interesting to see the huge variety of mushrooms that exist just in our little corner of the world.

mushrooms (not edible)

mushrooms (not edible!)

The fall crops that I started in the basement under lights at the beginning of July are getting big and I will start hardening them off in the next week or so.  I had not taken any garden pictures for quite some time so I took the camera out with me today to take a few pictures.  Here they are:

 

Until next time – could be next week, could be months from now – who knows?!

Late July 2016

July 30, 2016

Gardening and all its ups and downs continues here in NC.  We’ve been getting plenty of cucumbers, tomatoes, blackberries, and eggplants.  Basil has been so plentiful that I’ve made pesto twice and gave a large amount of excess basil to a co-worker so she could make enough to last for a year (or more) too.  I also pulled all of the carrots in mid-July and made my Taqueria-style pickled carrots with about 1/3 of them.  The recipe is accessible from the homepage (right hand side).  It’s by far the most popular recipe post we’ve ever made, as far as number of hits goes.

Summer squash was a complete bust this year for some reason.  We got a total of 4 squashes (from 6 plants!) before the plants died due to squash vine borers.  I don’t know what the problem was this year since summer squash is normally so prolific.  It was dismal enough that I seeded a few seeds in the garden about 3 weeks ago in the hopes we might be able to finagle a second round of summer squash somehow.  Time will tell…

I just finished blanching quite a few butter beans, in preparation for freezing.  There are more pods to be harvested tomorrow.  I need to get out into the garden early since it’s summer in NC and it’s particularly hot/humid right now.

We recently dug up the rest of the potatoes (Red Pontiacs and Kennebecs) and they’re curing in the basement.  We were quite satisfied with this year’s harvest amounts.  The onion harvest was also quite good this year and we chopped most of the onions and froze them – we have 4 gallon bags in the deep freeze!  That’s almost twice as much as previous years, from the same number of plants.  This will easily meet our onion needs for the year.

cured onions

Some of this year’s cured onions

Winter squash plants are running and we have at least 3 fruits that I’ve seen.  Hopefully they’ll make it!  We also have at least one cantaloupe melon that’s formed.  For some reason, the watermelon plants aren’t doing so great, but this is a common problem us.  I mostly plant watermelon just to see if they’ll make anything in a particular year – actually getting a melon would just be a bonus🙂

We’re still having some deer predation problems but, finally, the Japanese beetle season came to an end just within the past couple of days.  It seems to have been quite a long beetle season this year – at least 8 weeks.

Fall crops (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) were started in the basement under lights in early July and are doing well.  It’s hard to believe they get transplanted out in just 3 weeks, weather cooperating.  Time just keeps marching on – I can’t believe that we’ve been actively gardening for 8 solid years now!

Here’s a sampling of the rest of the harvest for the past few weeks:

We hope your garden is providing a bounty as well!

Early Summer 2016

June 19, 2016

We’ve been gardening away this month with lots of harvests and some frustration with deer.  We cut the last of the cauliflower and, likely, cabbages – there are still two small cabbages out in the garden but they’re likely to remain small at this point, we’ll see.  Lettuce, various greens, radishes, beets, turnips, and cilantro also ended earlier this month.  Friends and co-workers happily partook in the last of the lettuce harvest for the season.  We made a Mexican-style slaw a couple of times with many of the cabbages and cilantro.  Most of the greens were juiced and frozen for future addition to the green juices we make regularly.

Firsts also happened – notably the first cucumbers, haricots verts, and celery.  Today, we canned the first 5 pints of haricots verts for the season.  We’re growing far fewer of these beans this year since we still have plenty of canned beans from last year.

Our frustration with deer has been considerable as they’re the most likely culprits in some tomato damage we experienced.  They’ve also been nibbling on our field pea leaves and carrot tops (pulling up some of the small carrots in the process).  Some sort of critter (likely deer, given the tracks we saw) ate a few of the green tomatoes and left some intact ones on the ground.  We picked up the intact tomatoes and brought them inside to (hopefully) ripen on the counter.  So far, one has!  Does this count as the first tomato of the season???

first tomato

First tomato of the season??  It had to ripen on the counter.

We bought and sprayed deer repellant a couple of times out of desperation.  This has got to be the most putrid smelling product on earth!  I know it would keep me out of the garden!

Yesterday, we dug up almost all of the Yukon Gold potatoes and used some of them to make a delicious potato salad that included some of our own celery.  The remainder of the Yukon Golds are curing in the basement.  We still have Kennebecs and Red Pontiacs growing in the garden but they haven’t died back much yet so they’re likely two weeks or so out from being dug up.

We’ve been pulling up the “Candy” onions as the tops fall over and they’re currently curing under cover.  This year’s Candy onions are the largest we’ve been able to grow – some are even a respectable size!  We don’t know what was different this year since we grew them exactly the same as we’ve done in past years…

The Yellow Granex onions fell over much earlier than the Candy variety and they’ve been cured and clipped for at least two weeks now.  We made a yummy onion soup with some of the Yellow Granex onions.  Later today we’ll process the remaining Yellow Granex onions along with the Candy variety that are already cured by chopping them in the food processor and freezing them for future use.

We spend most weekend mornings in the garden tending and harvesting – it’s nice to get out before it gets too hot!  Japanese beetle season also started about 2 weeks ago which means that every morning before work, she’s outside shaking beetles into a bucket filled with a couple of inches of water before disposing of the beetles in a plastic bag.  It’s amazing how many beetles are on our fruit trees and berry canes every morning!  We have about 4 more weeks of Japanese beetle season.  It can’t end soon enough!

In our last post, we mentioned that we expected our first summer squash very soon.  That didn’t happen as the first fruits were not pollinated and they shriveled once they got to be about 3 inches long.  We still haven’t gotten any summer squash but the first patty pan squash is really almost ready.

Happy gardening until next time!

Spring 2016

May 29, 2016
2016-03-31 08.48.53

Tulips in Late March

We’ve been busy in the garden the past couple of months.  Harvesting, planting, weeding – it’s Spring!  Although the pea year was a bit if-fy, the two types that were most productive provided plenty of peas the past month.  Pea season is just about over and we plan on pulling up the plants in the next couple of days.  We had planned to do it today but it looks like it’s going to rain most of the day, so we may not be able to do it today.

In early April we pulled up the leeks that had been growing for more than a year and removed the last small square box that had been in our front yard.  We just don’t need as much growing space as we had made a few years ago.  We made a delicious potato-leek soup with the leeks.

We had a fairly significant hail storm in late April.  These are really uncommon in North Carolina – a once-a-decade event.  Many of our plants were damaged but most recovered.  We ended up losing just 3 or 4 plants; fortunately, nothing too critical (like a tomato plant!).  Here are a couple of pictures of the hail:

Since we started growing only hybrid cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower a couple of years ago (after trying primarily for heirlooms for several years), we’ve gotten very reliable harvests of these crops and we have plenty of all of these veggies in the ‘fridge right now.

As is usual, lettuce has been abundant and we’ve shared plenty with friends and co-workers.  We’ve also harvested plenty of greens (kales, mustard, and turnip greens), radishes, and herbs such as parsley and cilantro.  We made tabouli twice with all of the volunteer parsley we cut a month or so ago.  It was delicious.  We got a fair amount of asparagus this year as well.

In the past week, we pulled up the yellow granex onions and they’re currently curing.  None of them are huge, but we’re content with the fairly uniform size this year – in the past, some of our onions have been really small and we’ve never gotten truly large ones.  But a bunch of medium ones add up to a decent amount of chopped onions, which we freeze and use as needed; we grow almost all of our own onion needs each year.   The tops of the other onion type we’re growing (Candy) haven’t fallen over yet, so they’ll take a bit longer.

We’re just a few days out from cutting our first zucchini of the year and cucumbers should also be ready for the first time by the end of the week!  The haricots verts (French green bean) plants have recently bloomed so fresh beans aren’t far off either.  As the early Spring crops come to an end, the early Summer stuff starts coming in.  It’s great to eat seasonally!  Our first green tomatoes made their appearances a couple of weeks ago so we may have an early tomato year this year.  We’ll see…

Here are some other pictures from the garden in the past couple of months.  Happy gardening until next time!

 

Until Such Time…

April 15, 2016
2016-03-31 08.51.31

Kleo on her last day (October 16, 1998 to March 31, 2016)

My old dog recently passed from the Earth and we are slowly adjusting to a “new normal.”  I try to rejoice in all the years we had together instead of dwelling on the little piece of my heart that is now missing.

It’s going to be a very different to not have my faithful dog following me around in the garden until finally deciding to lay down and bask in the sun while watching me when wandering in the garden got too boring.

Someday we, and all of the other critters that have graced my life, will meet again at Rainbow Bridge…

Still Gardening

February 14, 2016

Well, obviously blogging isn’t one of our priorities anymore since our last post was ages ago, but we’re still gardening and enjoying the fruits of our efforts. Figs were prolific last year, so much so that we dried figs and still have some stored in the freezer. It was also an excellent blueberry year and we only recently used the last of the frozen berries.

 

blackberries & blueberries

Blackberries & Blueberries

blueberries

Blueberries

figs

Fresh figs

dried figs

Dried Figs

We also had good success with cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower this year. It was really good growing weather for these crops as it was cool but not too cold through December.

November cabbages

November Cabbages

broccoli

Broccoli

Seed starting in the basement under lights began for late winter/early spring crops last week and each week for the next month we start more types of crops. We also seeded shelling, sugar snap, and snow peas in the beds on January 30th, based on very favorable weather forecasts. Of course, those forecasts proved to be wrong and it’s been much colder than projected the past couple of weeks. Had we known, we wouldn’t have seeded so early. None of the pea seeds have sprouted so there’s a chance that they’re just hanging out under ground waiting for more favorable temperatures. Peas are usually a challenge for us in North Carolina because spring can be very short so it gets too hot before peas can really produce well.

In other news, our dog turned 17 years old in mid-October. Here’s a picture of her taken over Thanksgiving weekend.

2015-11-27 16.02.10

Old Dog

At this point, she’s 17 and 4 months. Wow. She looks it and has some mobility problems (our hardwood floors are covered with various runners and rugs to help her out), but she’s not ready to go yet either.

Santa brought us a fermentation kit this past Christmas and we’re trying our hand at fermenting one of our homegrown cabbages. It’s been going for 2 weeks and earlier today we opened the jar for the first time and tried it. So far, so good, but it needs to ferment longer in order to get more tangy.

Here are some of the random pictures we took of last summer/fall’s harvests (July through December):

Until such time…FoodGardenKitchen

 

 

 

 

July 2015 Update – Summer Garden

July 5, 2015

Much has happened in the garden since our last post a month ago. Pea, lettuce, and cabbage season ended and tomato season began. Cucumber and haricots verts season kept going… Raspberries ended but blackberries and blueberries began. Summer squash season ended very early this year (a month earlier than usual) as the plants succumbed to squash vine borers. We didn’t get *any* zucchini (not atypical for us) and we didn’t even get enough yellow and patty pan squash to get tired of them this year! The last lettuce harvest was just huge.

Huge Pile of Lettuce

Huge Pile of Lettuce

Even More Lettuces

Even More Lettuces

Cabbage / Cucumbers / test Carrot

Cabbage / Cucumbers / test Carrot

Sugar Snap Peas & test Carrot

Sugar Snap Peas & test Carrot

On the other hand, tomato season started early this year, probably because of the heat wave we experienced for almost two weeks in mid-June, and we got the first red tomatoes at least a week earlier than usual this year. We’ve been enjoying homegrown tomatoes almost daily. She has been picking them a day or two earlier than full ripeness because of (irrational) fear that some critter will beat us to them.

Typical July Daily Harvest

Typical July Daily Harvest

All of the garlic and onions have been cured and trimmed and we will finish up preserving them this weekend (we chop and freeze the onions and mince and freeze most of the garlic in order to ensure it lasts in storage).

Trimmed Garlic & Onions

Trimmed Garlic & Onions

Candy Onions

Candy Onions

We dug the last two types of potatoes this weekend (Kennebecs and Red LaSodas) and they have joined the previously-dug Yukon Golds in the basement on a piece of burlap to cure and store.

Potatoes on Burlap in Basement

Potatoes on Burlap in Basement

The haricots verts (French green beans) flourished in the past month and we canned 41 pints of green beans! They’re likely to have a second blooming but the first blooming is always the most productive (and highest quality).

Canned Haricot Vert

Canned Haricot Vert

Bucket of Haricot Vert

Bucket of Haricot Vert

We pulled up two of the three areas of carrots this weekend as well. We have plenty of carrots and will be sharing them with friends and canning them for later use.

Washed Carrots

Washed Carrots

Bucket of Carrots

Bucket of Carrots

The first butter beans are about ready to be picked and the field peas have started putting out pods as well. Melons and winter squash are growing, but it’s always hit-and-miss for us on whether we’ll get actual melons or squash. The fig trees have also put out figs, although it’ll still be at least a couple of weeks before they ripen. We were concerned about the fig trees because we had a very cold winter, but they pulled through. We have noticed that a few limbs died though and need to be cut. We also have four apples on our trees! Hopefully we’ll get to them before the deer do this year.

Finally, believe it or not, it’s already time to start some of the Fall crops in the basement. On Saturday, we started broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. They’ll get planted out in mid- to late-August, depending on the weather. In a couple of weeks, we’ll start the Fall greens inside as well.

Happy gardening until next time!

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

Garden Abundance!

June 7, 2015

May and early June proved to be abundant times in the garden. Since we switched to hybrid instead of heirloom broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage last year, we actually are able to pick a decent amount of these plants! Because winter lasted so long this year, we planted only the earliest peas (sugar snap, snow, and shelling) we have and have been delighted to be able to harvest a decent amount of peas. We actually had enough shelling peas to both eat fresh-steamed and to blanch some for freezing. They’re about done though and we pulled up many of the plants earlier today. We also had great success with radishes this year (they’re actually one of our more difficult “crops”, if you can believe that).

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Three types of peas

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Shelled Peas

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Blanched peas drying before freezing for future eatin’

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Broccoli & Radishes

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Broccoli, Cabbage, and Cauliflower

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Cabbages, sugar snap peas, and the last of the broccoli

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Cauliflower growing

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Cauliflower, red cabbage, and cucumbers

We picked our first cucumbers about two weeks ago and have been picking them regularly since. And we picked the first haricot vert (French style) green beans this weekend! Let the deluge begin…

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French green bean (haricot vert) plants

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First haricot vert of the year!

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Turnips & the first cucumbers

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More turnips

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Turnip greens

Back in mid-May, we cut the garlic scapes and have used them in cooking the same way we would use garlic. We pulled the garlic bulbs today and they’re currently curing under cover.

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Garlic scapes

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Newly pulled garlic curing

Last week, we pulled up the yellow granex onions. The tops had all fallen over and browned but the bulbs were pretty small. We don’t think this type does very well in this area since the “Candy” variety is still growing strong.

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“Candy” varietal onion patch

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Yellow granex onions curing

Earlier today we also cut the last of the mustard and most of the remaining kale.

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Last of the mustard greens and some kale

In early May, a luna moth hung out next to the door on our side porch for 3 days. Wikipedia tells us that these moths have a life span of only a week, so we suspect it spent the last three days of its life next to our door. But maybe it was the first three days…

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Luna moth

Putting the eggplants under the protective cover until they were larger has paid off. We removed the cover a couple of weeks ago and the plants are now large enough to survive the flea beetle onslaught and the plants look healthy. We spray them regularly with Neem, but it doesn’t seem to help all that much since we see flea beetles every time we go out to the garden.

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Healthy eggplants

We’ve been enjoying carefully dug new potatoes a couple of times in the last couple of weeks and earlier today we went ahead and dug the Yukon Gold potatoes since their foliage had died back quite a bit. We’re planning on frying up the little nubbins with dinner tonight while the larger potatoes have been put on burlap in the basement to cure. We still have a couple of other varieties in the garden (Kennebecs and Red LaSodas) but they haven’t died back as much as the Yukons had, so we’ll wait to dig them.

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This year’s Yukon Gold harvest

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Yukon gold nubbins before frying them up for dinner

We’ve also been getting some raspberries several times a week for the past 2-3 weeks. But she tends to pop these in her mouth as they’re picked, so there are not pictures of piles of raspberries.

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Raspberries on the cane

We’ll leave you with some pictures from the garden. Until next time and thanks for reading!

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Tomato plants

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The promise of future blueberries!

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First summer squash will be ready in the next day or two…

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Sweet potato vines starting to run

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Heap of early June lettuce & arugula

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Early June garden view

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Celery growing

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Lettuce that needs to be picked

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Late May lettuce and arugula heap

Spring Update

May 1, 2015

It’s about time for what has become a quarterly post… We’ve been busy with the regular garden stuff. Seed starting began in the basement in early February, there were light harvests of overwintered plants (many died due to the very cold conditions we experienced this winter in NC), and all of the preparation/planting that comes with spring. We harvested a few overwintered cabbages, including red cabbages, so she made the ever-popular rouladen with “rot kohl” – recipes on front page. For the first time ever, nearly all of our radishes have made actual radishes! We’ve also gotten a respectable amount of asparagus and we pulled the overwintered carrots, although we’ve been using them for juicing rather than for direct eating because their quality suffered from the cold. But, we have no pictures of these things as taking pictures of harvests started to feel too much like a chore.

Recently we pulled up the overwintered beets and mustard along with some early-spring planted kales and made braised greens, which we froze for later.

pile of greens

We’ve gotten almost all of our late-spring/early summer plants in the ground. The only things being hardened off now are some zucchini and charentais melon plants.

hardening off melons and zucchini

We planted our eggplant and pepper plants out a few days ago and put them under cover because nighttime temperatures are still a bit cool for these plants and also because we have flea beetles which can kill young eggplants. We’ll remove the cover from the peppers as soon as night temperatures are higher and from the eggplants once they get more mature (a foot or so tall).

eggplants & peppers under cover

We’ll leave you with a few pictures from the garden:

volunteer parsley

Volunteer Parsley Plant

summer squash

Summer Squash

sugar snap peas behind red cabbage

Sugar snap peas behind red cabbage

productive radish box with other things

A productive radish box with other things

potato patch

Potato patch

onions

Onion patch

new thyme container

Thyme container – we sprouted the seeds in the basement

mustard & kales

Mustard & Kale

lettuce & snow peas

Lettuce and snow peas

leeks

Leeks

haricot vert box

Haricot vert box

garlic patch

Garlic

cucumbers

One area of cucumbers – we have two more

cabbages

Cabbages

broccoli behind tomatoes

Broccoli behind tomatoes – the broccoli will be done once the tomatoes get large enough to need more space

asparagus box

Asparagus box

New Year, Seed Startings et al

February 9, 2015

We used to do weekly garden updates and it looks like they’ve now turned into quarterly updates… The last update was before our first frost last year, which occurred a couple of weeks later than usual. Here are a few pictures of the last summer harvest right before the frost:

right before the first frost 1

Right before the 1st frost

last tomatoes 1

Last tomatoes

celery 1

Celery

winter squash 1

Winter squash

barely mature winter sqaush 1

Barely mature winter squash

Many of the green tomatoes ripened on the counter and we still had a few tomatoes until shortly after Christmas.

We also had a Thanksgiving Day harvest of three cabbages!

Thanksgiving Day harvest 1

Thanksgiving Day Cabbages!

Other December/early January harvests included broccoli, more cabbage, greens (which we juiced), arugula, lettuce, radishes, and turnips

broccoli & cabbage 1

Broccoli & Cabbage

greens for juicing 1

Greens for Juicing

turnips and radishes

Turnips & Radishes

end of Dec arugula & lettuce

End of December Arugula & Lettuces

turnips and radishes in late Dec 1

Turnips & radishes in late December

broc & greens in late Dec 1

Broccoli & greens in late December!

Unfortunately, in mid January, it turned really cold for several days and all of our overwintered cauliflower and half of the broccoli died, despite our efforts at using burlap and garden fabric to protect the plants. It was very disappointing as most of the cauliflower had formed heads and a couple of them were at harvestable size.

But here we find ourselves at the beginning of February which means that indoor seed starting needed to get started! Earlier today we started cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, mustard, celery, and leeks in our basement seed starting area with more to come every weekend for the next few weekends.

Yesterday and today brought beautiful weather for this time of year (upper 60s) so she spent part of the day puttering around the yard and removing 4 of the 7 small square boxes in the front yard. The wood had rotted and we no longer need the extra growing space (because of our larger backyard boxes, installed in November 2013). The remaining 3 have stuff overwintered in them so they’ll be removed in the spring.

We’ve been eating from our preserved harvests all winter. Earlier today she made a “chili” with a couple of the smaller sized winter squash that we still have (small being relative since some of the winter squash were huge). The basic recipe is at this link following, but we use beef stew meat instead of brisket: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/texas-beef-brisket-chili

Thanks for visiting our blog!


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