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!

Falling into Autumn

October 26, 2014

Wow, how time flies! It’s already been 2 months since our last blog post. Double WOW for the tomato year we’ve had this year. Amazingly, many of the tomato plants planted way back in April are still producing, although looking pretty ragged. This will likely be their last week as it’s forecast to frost next weekend (a bit later than average for us). We have so much canned and frozen tomato sauce that we may not need to grow sauce tomatoes next year!

Plenty of Tomatoes

Plenty of Tomatoes

Last of the Tomatoes

Getting to be the Last of the Tomatoes

It’s been a great season in the garden (except for melons which eluded us this year). We’ve gotten so many winter squash of various sorts this year that we’re probably going to give some away. There are just far too many for us to consume. We decided to try roasting the seeds of the ones we’ve used and loved the result so much that we’ve roasted seeds three times this season. Just separate as much pulp from the seeds as reasonably possible; rinse and pat dry; toss with oil of your choice, salt, and paprika (we love the paprika addition); and roast in a single layer at 300-325 degrees for about 20 minutes (stirring at 10 minutes in). They made a great crunchy snack! We stored them in the ‘fridge.

Roasted Winter Squash Seeds

Roasted Winter Squash Seeds

Winter Squash

Winter Squash

Yes More

Yes More

You didn't think we were done did you?

You didn’t think we were done did you?

It’s been a very productive season in the garden, even though time constraints left us tending to the garden only two or three times a week this year. We got plenty of figs (unexpected because last winter was really harsh and parts of both trees were damaged), carrots, butter beans, field peas, haricots verts and other green beans, beets, cucumbers, sweet and hot peppers, okra, herbs of various sorts, eggplant, shelling beans, and a smattering of raspberries and blackberries (which never make it inside to be photographed as she eats them as she picks them).

Harvest

Harvest

Harvests like squash

Harvests like squash

See the squash?

See the squash?

Summer Harvest Day

Summer Harvest Day

Carrots

Carrots

Canned Carrots

Canned Carrots

Canned Pickled Taqueria Carrots

Canned Pickled Taqueria Carrots

Field Peas & Butter Beans

Field Peas & Butter Beans

Flagrano Shelling Beans

Flagrano Shelling Beans drying

Butter Beans

Butter Beans – Lots of Shelling Happened!

Field Peas

Blanched Field Peas & a Couple of Radishes

The fall “crops” – cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Chinese kale, mustard, and lacinato kale – are all doing really well. The broccoli and cauliflower haven’t produced anything yet but the plants are the best looking ones of these types we’ve ever grown. We attribute it partially to our willingness to try hybrids (as opposed to heirlooms) this year. Lately we’ve been harvesting radishes and arugula for salads. We’ve had to purchase lettuce this season because our lettuce crop didn’t do well with the neglect and didn’t make it. C’est la vie…

Parsley

Parsley container

Kale

Kale patch

Cauliflower & Broccoli

Cauliflower & Broccoli box

Cabbages & Chinese Kale

Cabbages & Chinese Kale

It's the Great Cabbage, Charlie Brown!

It’s the Great Cabbage, Charlie Brown!

Autumn Garden

Autumn Garden

Autumn Garden 2

Another View of the Autumn Garden

Unfortunately, when we went out to the garden this weekend, two of the apple trees we planted last fall were broken about two feet above the ground. It was very disheartening. We suspect deer. We cut the trees at the break and hope they will come back next year. At least 3 feet of growth was lost from each tree.

Broken and Sad Apple Tree

Broken and Sad Apple Tree

Shattered Dreams Apple Tree

Shattered Dreams Apple Tree

Hopefully it won’t be two more months until our next blog post, but you never know. There’s just so much time in the day and choices about priorities have to be made. Thanks for reading!

Le French Squash Et Al

August 26, 2014

Introducing Pierre and his sidekicks.

Winter Squash

Winter Squash

Three weeks ago we harvested Pierre (a Musquee du Provence winter squash weighing in at 11 pounds) and two heirloom butternut type squashes. Since this harvest, we’ve had problems with partially grown winter squash detaching from the vine and shriveling (8 or so died this way). This has been a problem for us every year. We’ve come to the preliminary conclusion that the reason is too much rain. In June/July, we went 3 weeks without any rain at all and then the rainfall was moderate. It was during this time that the various winter squashes we’ve harvested matured. Since the end of that dry period, we’ve gotten lots of rain every week (normal for North Carolina). We think that the detaching problem is due to the rainfall. If anyone knows if “too much rain” causes this problem in winter squash, please leave a comment and let us know. Thanks!

We pulled up about 40% of the spring-seeded carrots a couple of weeks ago. We’ve got plenty of carrots!

Carrots

Carrots

This past weekend, we cleared away winter squash vines from some of the “lawn” areas since the vines weren’t producing anymore (we still have a few winter squash out there so there will hopefully be more picking next month) and we were getting tired of having to walk through them. The grass/weeds were quite tall since they hadn’t been mown in a couple of months.   After we were done mowing, we saw that a young-ish box turtle had been resting in the tall grass. We were sick that we thought we had mowed over the turtle and killed it, but, lo-and-behold, the turtle was unscathed and walked away from the blades of death!

Saved from the mower blades

Saved from the mower blades

In other picking… We’ve been getting plenty of tomatoes this year (after last year’s awful tomato season) and have canned over 30 pints of tomato sauce. We have so much now that we’re even starting to give tomatoes away to friends and co-workers. It was also a bumper haricot vert year (almost 60 pints canned) with more still coming. We recently picked the first field peas (aka cowpeas, black eyed peas, or southern peas) and the first butter beans (aka lima beans). We also drastically cut the basil this past weekend and made pesto which we froze into portion sizes in muffin tins.

Plenty of Tomatoes

Plenty of Tomatoes

Summer Harvest Day

Summer Harvest Day

Basil

Basil

Last weekend we planted out the fall crops – cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kales, and mustard. We also seeded lettuce and cilantro. The fall crops we direct seeded a couple of weeks ago (arugula, beets, radishes, turnips, and carrots) are all germinated and growing up. We’ve had a mild summer (for North Carolina) and until a couple of weeks ago, our spring-planted kales and mustards were still growing! We removed them as they were starting to look ragged and we needed the space for Fall crops.

 


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