Monday, May 22, 2017

Harvest Monday - 22 May 2017

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm! The weather here (like a lot of places) has not been consistent, which is not good for gardening. We've had some very warm days, and just as many absolutely cold days, and especially cold nights. No hope of getting the warm weather crops in early.

For harvests, we've decided to make the following the last asparagus pick of the season. We've enjoyed every stalk, but the bed has not been especially productive, and even the plants that usually give a lot have been stingy this year. Not sure why. Better now to let the rest of the stalks just grow.

You might think that we already have enough garden space here. We have a fenced area that is 2400 square feet, plus another 600 square feet we call the "Survival Garden" where we grow dry corn and beans. But the fenced garden, which might have been perfect in its day (before we got here), is now getting more and more shaded. Plus, I've taken 2 of its raised beds out of vegetables and substituted strawberries.

When we were out in Northern California's wine country last fall, we stopped at the historic (1876) Simi Winery in Healdsburg. It is a pretty spot. There, I was completely struck by their novel (to me) raised beds:

I knew just what they were: livestock tanks!

The above bed contained a hot pepper I was unfamiliar with. I asked, and it's called "Calabrese." They let us take some, but warned us they were "atomic." I found them flavorable, but not all that hot. I saved some seeds, and now have a plant growing. It will find a home in our latest project:

You guessed it, our very own stock tanks. They measure 8 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 2 feet high. We bought two. They weren't cheap (about $250 each, plus soil). But they will outlive me (I'm tired of replacing worn out raised bed frames). I expect to place all our pepper and eggplant seedlings in them. No worry about shading in this spot. They even have threaded drain plugs. We filled them with a layer of rubble, then about a foot of sandy/gravelly/loamy soil, and the rest beautiful loam that's 20% compost. Should be plant paradise.

I of course will keep updating the progress of these beds. But for now, enjoy the other posts on Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Harvest Monday - 8 May 2017 - Don't Do This!

Welcome to a Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Not wanting to start any post on a negative note, please "do" do this: harvest luscious asparagus if you got 'em.

But please "don't" do this! Like last year, aphids invaded the sunroom where all my precious seedlings start life. Once noticed, I started spraying with Pyrethrin. It beat them back for awhile, but they returned. So I got the brilliant idea to take a cotton swab to all the leaves in the hopes of crushing or removing them. Here is the result of that unfortunate effort:

I shortly realized that what I had done was damage the tender leaf cells. Almost all the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers started wilting. What is worst is the growing tips appear to be compromised on many plants.

Some may recover, but are starting life at a disadvantage. Of course there's no time to start new ones, so that means finding a garden center that stocks something more interesting than the typical Early Girl, Jet Star, and Big Boy varieties.

Gardening is hard!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday, and also providing so many other interesting and informative posts.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Harvest Monday - 1 May 2017

It's been a dismal spring, but I always say that. It just won't stay warm. I've delayed planting most things by at least a week. But I finally have a vegetable harvest to share on Harvest Monday. Of course, it's asparagus.

We've gotten several similar pickings this week. You'll note the lack of uniformity. You don't see that in the supermarkets, but I imagine that commercial growers get a mix of sizes just like this, and simply select only the fattest for the fresh market and relegate the skinny ones to bulk processing of one kind or another. But for us, every stalk is precious and delicious. My favorite way to prepare is just lightly steamed, then add a sprinkle of sea salt. Fabulous! We should get several more weeks of harvest before letting the plants do their growing for the season.

I guess this counts as a "harvest." I grew many more onion and leek seedlings than I had room to plant, which we did this week. Rather than throw the extras into the compost, why not eat them?

The Kitchen Goddess put some in our scrambled eggs, and they were fantastic--bursting with flavor. The rest she'll put in a quiche. They were a pain to clean, she reported. So, thanks, TKG!

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for continuing to host this great forum.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Harvest Monday - 27 February 2017

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year! Queue the rich, merry tenor voice of Andy Williams. OK, now try to turn it off in your mind. Ha, you can't! But we are not talking about Christmas. No, this was the tag line of The Kitchen Goddess's Facebook post from a week ago, with a picture of a bucket hanging from a tree. Yes, maple syrup season has come (and gone) at Eight Gate Farm!

Saturday the 18th began a very unusual warming trend here in the Northeast. And by warm, I mean really warm. In fact, on Friday the 24th it reached the 70s, and we enjoyed eating dinner outside on the screened porch, listening to the babbling brook just over the northern property line. Most of the year this brook is just a trickle or even a seep, but swelled with the rapidly melting snow it turned into a relative torrent.

You can see our property line tailing off into the woods on the right. 

A classic maple sap run has days in the 40s, and nights below freezing, which typically occurs in very late February or early March, and extends for several weeks, with days when it temporarily shuts down. But this was almost too warm, with no freezing nights. This is supposed to have an adverse effect on the quality of the sap. Something about the sap going up to the tops of the trees and staying there, which causes cloudiness in what you harvest. It's chemistry, or physics, or something like that...I don't know. Science is hard!

I've written a series of posts in the past that shows how we make maple syrup on a small scale. You can find it here, and here, and here. This year we again tapped the four large sugar maples next to the barn, one tap per tree. In just a week we had all the syrup we need for the year, and maybe enough extra to give some small gifts. An average year is a 40:1 ratio of sap to syrup. But this year, with a little over 20 gallons of sap, we yielded 3 1/2 quarts of the delicious nectar.

You can see a half-full jar in the middle. This was the last boil. Not sure why it is so much darker. But all the boils produced clear, super-sweet syrup (after being allowed to settle, of course). So the over-warm temperatures did not seem to affect us, but did substantially shorten the required season. 

As in the past, the local high school's forestry program requested our permission to tap our little "sugar bush" of young trees, which we gladly gave. They've placed over 30 buckets there, and the students come by every few days to empty them. They typically leave us a quart of syrup at the end of the season, adding to our stash.

So it was a highly successful season that was over before we knew it (the school taps much longer, so they are just starting). Well, it was easy for me. TKG had the tedious part of tending the boils. I kept singing "Most Wonderful Time" just to keep her amused.

In the store yesterday they featured "Certified Organic, Non-GMO" syrup, which made me laugh. What else could it be? The price: $14 per quart. Again, this is not something we do to "save money." The equipment (buckets, taps, boiler) we can amortize over many years. We spent maybe $25 for propane to run the boiler (a repurposed turkey fryer), so it is certainly not "free." No, this is something we do for self-sufficiency and just because it's neat to "raise" your own food, just like gardening.

Oh, and a downside to the warm weather. I went out into the woods on Saturday to change the memory card in the game-cam. It's just 50 yards, but coming out I found 6 ticks crawling up my legs. In February! Yuck! Thank you Climate Change.

Thanks for reading, and thanks as always to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Harvest Monday - 16 January 2017 - Potato Salvage Operation

Hello and Happy New Year from Eight Gate Farm. No harvests to report (of course); instead I have a post on using the crops.

Once again the storage potatoes have not lasted as long as expected. I'm keeping them in complete darkness in a bin in the basement, but I was unable to get the humidity down in the fall, and it wasn't very cool either. Consequently, the entire remaining crop has softened and sprouted. But they do not need to go to waste. Once peeled and trimmed, while you wouldn't serve them baked, they are just fine for many other purposes. On Sunday The Kitchen Goddess did a marathon salvage operation.

First, some were sliced and put into the dehydrator. The resulting "chips" are perfect for au gratin or scalloped recipes, and seem to keep forever.

Also, some were cubed and dehydrated. These are great in soups. Being thicker, they take much longer to dry, but again should keep indefinitely.

Then a whole bunch were riced and "magically" (from my perspective!) turned into a huge quantity of gnocchi. After rolling and shaping, she froze them on trays, then they are dusted with cornmeal and placed in freezer bags for use anytime. I love gnocchi!

Some of the riced potatoes are being kept aside for adding to soups, or mashing.

So while it is disappointing that the whole potatoes would not keep any longer, they can still be put to good use, and provide lots of food value. This gives you the opportunity to continue to enjoy the fruits of the garden, even when the ground is frozen solid!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Michelle for guest-hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Harvest Monday - 5 December 2016

Until this weekend, I haven't really set foot in the vegetable garden since my last post (Halloween). At that time, we had taken all the crops, but we hadn't dug up the chard and kale plants. That interlude allowed them to grow some small but welcome leaves, despite the cold nights and waning sun. So we get to join the Harvest Monday party one more time this year.

Then there's this. We were in California for Thanksgiving, and the last night I tripped and fell kinda hard. Here is the result:

Two unpronounceable fractured bones in the wrist. The Kitchen Goddess said to post this picture because it shows off my "green thumb." I guess she was "casting" about for a joke. Ugh, that was "lame."

"Enough!" I hear you say, and rightly so. Don't feel bad for me, it's TKG that has to pick up the chores I normally would be doing for the next 5 weeks. And imagine if this had happened during gardening season!

I hope all the Harvest Monday community is staying warm and planning next year's garden like I am. Thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting this forum.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Harvest Monday - 31 October 2016

Hello again, and Happy Halloween from Eight Gate Farm! When I was a child, Halloween was my favorite time of year. These days, living out in the semi-sticks, we don't get any trick-or-treaters, which is sad, as I love to see the excitement in the childrens' faces, reminding me of my own tender years.

We were slated to get a hard frost this week, so we picked all the rest of the peppers and eggplants.

Looks decent, right? Well how about I put a raspberry in there for scale?


Never mind that, this weekend we stripped the kale:

And the chard:

And the pak choi:

And the watermelon radishes:

And the "personal-sized" Chinese cabbage, the second crop of which got too late start this year to get big:

Probably the most fun were the leeks. We've been sampling them as the year progressed, and Saturday my MIL took 16 of them, giving me the opportunity to say "she took a leek in my garden!" [Apologies to those not enamored with boy-humor.]

The remainder are presented here:

At the supermarket I saw leeks (from The Netherlands) for $1.99 apiece. These aren't as big, but certainly fresher! As I've said before, gardening for most of us does not really "save" money, but you have to think there's a large amount of value sometimes. Trimmed, they weighed 7.5 lbs.

So that pretty much puts paid to this season. It's had its ups and downs, of course, but overall it was pretty good!

Here's one of my "farmstand" pictures, showing the final harvest:

Uh oh, the freezers are already full to bursting. What will we do if I get a deer this season? I've already been out a couple of times.

I want to thank all the readers who have viewed and commented on my posts. Harvest Monday really is a community! Thanks especially to Dave at Our Happy Acres for keeping this tradition thriving.