Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Water, water...where??

I guess I really shouldn't be complaining about drought, when you think of what the Western US is going through. And many gardeners in other parts of the country are losing crops to too much rain! But we are in a drought, with all of the consequences.

I was talking to the farmer down the road. He is fortunate to have an irrigation pond that is spring-fed. He uses its water to drip irrigate his fields closest to it. But for his upper corn field (just through the woods from my land) he has to pump nightly from the lower pond to an upper pond, which he drains daily to overhead-irrigate his corn. He's using 50 gallons of diesel a day.

The US Department of Agriculture has divided up the state into five categories of drought condition.

These are:
Abnormally Dry
Moderate Drought
Severe Drought
Extreme Drought
Exceptional Drought

My town is in the part of the state that is being labelled as having Extreme Drought (no one is Exceptional yet). Statistically 74% of the state is in some form of drought, and 4.4% is in Extreme. Last year only 40% was in some form of drought.

Much of the town is on a public water system, and so far no restrictions have been imposed. We, and most of the rural parts, are on private wells. The rather nice housing development down the road is on a shared well. They have an outdoor water restriction in effect; not quite an outright ban. I don't know what their restrictions actually consist of.

How are we ourselves doing? So far, we have no problems with our drilled service well. I sure hope that continues! Unfortunately I don't have information on its depth. The town should have a record of that but it doesn't. To be safe, we gave up on trying to water the lawns, and they look accordingly. Hopefully they'll recover. The gardens have drip irrigation, so nothing to worry about there.

We also have a hand-dug, stone-lined well probably dating from the 19th century. We don't really use it for anything (the water probably is not potable) but it is there in case we need to manually water things. I installed a hand pump and a locked hatch on it a few years ago, for safety and just plain looks.

A few years ago I measured the depth of water in the old well, and it was about four feet. Now it's two. Here's a peek down the well, with the water reflecting back way down there maybe 18 feet.

I sure have respect for the tough men that dug that well and lined it with stone.

Sunday night we did get some welcome rain, but I don't know how much.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Harvest Monday - 22 August 2016

Here's another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Once again, I present the firsts first.

We took a single ear of Honey Select sweet corn as an experiment. It was exactly 80 days since seeding, the "expected" harvest date. For me, the expected dates rarely match my results. This ear was beautiful and well-filled out, but the kernels were not as deep yellow as riper ones. It was sweet, but is just a promise of things to [hopefully] come.

A heirloom Japanese "Mitoya" eggplant, and two generic hot chile peppers. The Mitoya looks a lot like Black Beauty except its calyx is purple rather than green.

Two Rutgers tomatoes (right) and two Costoluto Genovese on the left. All except one of the Rutgers are way undersized, but were ripe.

Now for continuing harvests, and first, a last. This is all remaining carrots. I didn't plant that many this year.

More "Espresso" corn. It has finally reached its potential, but still can't compare to Honey Select.

Artichokes, Diva cucumbers, and Yellowfin and Cocozella Di Napoli zucchinis.

Hot chile, hot cherry, Hungarian Wax, and shishito peppers, and Ping Tung Long eggplants.

The lettuce which had been ravaged by the woodchuck has recovered enough for us to start eating salads again. Also there are more Divas, zucchini, and Espresso corn.

Yet more Divas, zucchini, and some beets. I would never have believed it, but we are actually giving Divas away.

I promised myself no more photos of our pickling cucumber glut, but the contrast in this picking amused me. On the left, normal-sized picklers, in the middle, our new technique of picking them very young for cornichons, and on the right, The One That Almost Got Away.

I wrote last week about the failure of Dorinny Sweet corn. This week I took all the pathetic remaining ears. They remind me of Ancestral Puebloan maize. These are destined for corn chowder, so they won't go to waste.

An end-of-week picking of artichokes, zucchini, Divas, yellow wax beans (starting their second flush), a few seedless raspberries the birds somehow missed, and a Honey Select corn along with three Espressos. The Honey Select is so much larger.

And lastly, chard. What a great year for this cut-and-come-again crop!

Now a bit about using the harvest. Right off I have to say how lucky we feel to be able to have meals with our own artichokes and corn together. This is what gardening is all about.

Speaking of cornichons, The Kitchen Goddess made and canned what we had at the time.

A delicious meal of grilled shishito peppers and tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, to accompany grilled TriTips. Yes, California readers, you can find TriTip in New Hampshire, but you really have to luck into it. For those who haven't had it, see if you can find it. It is the best tasting beef in my opinion. The shishitos were brushed with olive oil, flash-grilled, and sprinkled with sea salt. Yum, what a treat! And for those who have asked, so far we have not had a hot one yet.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Make sure to read all the lovely posts on Harvest Monday, graciously hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Harvest Monday - 15 August 2016

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Apologies in advance if this post is long.

Again I'm starting with the "firsts" this week. Along with the noble artichoke, probably our favorite crop is sweet corn. We picked the first "Espresso":

How was it? Truthfully it doesn't compare to the later-season Honey Select in terms of sweetness. But we enjoyed it. I like the concept of an early, cool-soil emergent corn, and now that the Espresso seed is used up, I'll definitely be moving on.

Another "first," but a fail. I was intrigued by the heirloom corn "Dorinny Sweet," which was touted as adapted to northern climates. It did emerge early, but from that point on performed poorly. The result was short, spindly, weak stalks with tiny ears that had poor pollination. And the taste...meh. To be fair, we probably waited too long to pick it, for as you can see the kernels are big, which usually means they will be starchy and tough. Dorinny will not be attempted again, sorry.

We picked the first "Caspian Pink" (much smaller than is typical) and two "Sugar Plum" grape tomatoes. Delicious!

We picked the first "Black Beauty" and "Pingtung Long" eggplants, and a solitary hot cherry pepper:

Now for the continuing harvests. Almost every day we picked some or all of the following:

Shishito and Hungarian Wax peppers:

Carrots, zucchini, and picklers (note the sparse foliage on the carrots; the goldfinches, AKA the "salad birds," have been stripping the leaves relentlessly).

Artichokes, zucchini, Diva and pickling cucumbers. Funny thing about the Divas. The chipmunks have decided they like gnawing on them, but they leave the picklers alone. This is probably because the Divas have no spines on either vine or fruit, and the picklers are covered in them. Or maybe we have gourmet chipmunks.

Some more Espresso corn, chard, zucchini, Diva and pickling cucumbers.

Artichokes,  Divas, and zucchini.

Okay, so the pickling cukes are getting tiresome. We think so too, with over 10 pounds in the fridge. So like I said last week, it's time to pick them tiny and save up to make cornichons. Here we start:

The Kitchen Goddess is doing the best she can with the cucumbers. Here she made 9 pints of "Burger Chips." Note that the labels demonstrate goddess-logic...she puts the date they will be ready, not when they were canned.

And here, sweet/dill cucumber relish (9 pints). Now down to two pounds in fridge! But, enough relish to last 9 years.

Here at Eight Gate Farm, we try to waste as little as possible. Processing all that relish left a good amount of cucumber juice. TKG found a recipe for Cucumber Cocktail. It was delish, and refreshing (we used gin instead of vodka). As TKG says, "it's kind of like juicing."

Lastly, presenting Fun With Food with The Kitchen Goddess. Here, she shows you how to make an eggplant swan with shishito pepper wings!

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading! And thanks as always to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harvest Monday - 8 August 2016

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm, in drought-y New Hampshire. The little bit of rain we got this week has accomplished nothing I'm afraid. The grass in the back field, impossible to irrigate, is crispy.

But the gardens are irrigated, so the harvests roll on. Let's start with the new things this week. First, a lonely "Taxi" tomato, so sweet and delicious:

The Kitchen Goddess begged me to let her rob the potato patch. "Just two small ones," she said. Well, what she found was not exactly small, almost 11 oz.

Our first "Diva" cucumber of the season. Tasting it, I see what the fuss is about.

Continuing harvests, with a pickling cucumber theme. BTW, I like picklers as slicers. They're crunchy!

The last harvest of the week, with Swiss Chard, squash, carrots, a Diva, and of course, picklers!

OK, we seriously have a glut of picklers. What to do? People complain about zucchini overload, but at least it can be frozen. Picklers can really only become...pickles. So TKG did some pickling. First, some lacto-fermentation for immediate enjoyment:

Then some long-term kosher dills:

Well, there goes a few pounds anyway. In search of ideas, I Googled "too many cucumbers." One site had some unusual suggestions. Maybe "All-Natural Vegan Dog Chew Toys?" And if you or your child likes to play with Mr. Potato Head, how about "Carla Cucumber?"

All right, I guess it's more pickles. You can give them away, right? "We like you guys so much, here's a gift of our unwanted pickles!" Actually, if it really gets out of hand, we can always pick them very small, and make cornichons. I like them, and we have plenty of tarragon.

Finally, TKG cleaned up the remaining garlic for storage. Note the obligatory US quarter-dollar coin for scale.

"German White":


That's all for this week Thanks for reading! Please check out all the other Harvest Monday posts at Our Happy Acres. Thank you, Dave, for hosting Harvest Monday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Woodchuck Invasion - How I Handle It

This happened on Sunday. I felt the story should be told, but it wasn't suitable for the upbeat Harvest Monday banter. In fact, if you are opposed to the, shall we say, drastic elimination of garden enemies, please read no further.

In the past few weeks I noticed that a fair amount of produce was being damaged. Now, there will always be chipmunks and voles, and you can't really do much about it. Fences don't stop them. But this looked worse. Something seemed to be trying to burrow under the fence at one place. I stopped it up with firewood on both sides of the fence. While we were gone, and my MIL was watching the place, nothing seemed amiss, nor was the week since eventful.

On Sunday I did some harvesting. Later that afternoon The Kitchen Goddess and I went out to do a final picking. Here is what we found.

Most lettuce destroyed.

All Chinese cabbage and kale mostly stripped.

Half the precious Diva cucumber vines nipped off.

And under the potato bed, this enormous burrow:

That's the handle of a hoe showing you how deep I could go. It's over 3 feet, and probably extends much farther.

All this happened in a few afternoon hours.

I went back to the house to get my camera. When I got back to the garden gate, Mr. G. D. Woodchuck was staring at me from the garden path.

I went back to the house to get my Instant Lead-Poisoning Administrative Device, i.e. varmint rifle. He was gone when I got back to the garden. So I sat on the bench waiting. Within a little while he appeared outside the fence. He went around the neighbor's apple tree and vanished under their shed, where undoubtedly he had a home. But he emerged in a few minutes and went back to the apple tree. Those were his last steps. His death was quick and painless.

So, problem solved for now. But I could not find the other end of his burrow, if there is one. I stopped up this end, but would not be surprised if another one will find its way in. I deal with it then.

Actually, he is the 4th one I've eliminated this year, but never before had one gotten into the garden. The others were preventative action, when spotted in our field.

I'm not proud of this, nor is it something I like doing. It's just necessary to protect what you treasure and rely on, like we do our garden. And I don't believe that trapping and relocating is good for either the animal or other people's gardens. There are plenty of hay fields and corn fields around here where woodchucks can play to their hearts' content. Just not here please.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Harvest Monday - 1 August 2016

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. We got back a week ago from our mysterious trip. I still can't disclose where, but it was warm, beach-y, and ancient ruin-y. Unfortunately, within a day of being back, we both came down with a combination of Zika, SARS, and malaria...or maybe just the flu. The poor Kitchen Goddess was down for the count for most of the week, but me, possessing manly strength, bounced back in a day or so. Pause for eye-rolling.

My MIL watched the house while we were gone, and kept things picked, but here is what was waiting for us. First, the "firsts." And the star as always is the beloved artichoke.

Next is summer squash. I grew "Yellowfin" like last year, and because so many of you grow the "Italian-style" zucchini with the ribs, I bought "Cocozella Di Napoli" when we were at the Baker Creek store. I can't really say it tastes different, but it sure is pretty.

Next is cucumbers. I'm actually growing four varieties this year (the failure of the broccoli and brussels sprouts left some room). Here you see five "Homemade Pickles," and two of either "Calypso" or "Cross-Country" or both. In my usual style I forgot to note where I planted what for those. Homemade Pickles may be a dumb name, but I'm liking how prolific these bush-type plants (actually short vines) have turned out to be. All are really tasty.

Next we have the first tomatoes and a Hungarian Wax pepper.

The two smaller ones are "Umberto," a free sample I got a few years ago. They are supposed to be a 1 - 2 oz paste-type, but these are smaller and actually were quite good just popped in the mouth. The other is an "Incas" paste-type. We will need quite a few more to get sauce production! Unfortunately this is shaking out to be a bust year for tomatoes; my fault for where I placed them. Most plants are getting a lot more shade than I expected. Well, they get sun all morning and then in the later afternoon, but skip the mid-day sun. I guess that's the important part; not so much the total of sunlight. Anyone know?

The last first is the "Desiree" soup peas. Once again the crop was not all true--some have green pods instead of blue. These are now drying, and I'll show the peas themselves when finished. We will get maybe one pot of pea soup. Is it worth it?

Now the rest of the harvests this week.

TKG cleaned up the first batch of garlic (Georgian Fire) that had been curing for several weeks. The bulbs look to have 4 to 5 good sized cloves within. And now I know where the term "hardneck" comes from--the stalks are like wood. Does anyone know if it's harmful to leave them long like this? I hope not, because I like the way it looks, and all garlic should have convenient handles!

Of course, with all the cucumbers coming in, TKG had to start making pickles. So here's the first batch of "Bread & Butter." You know, I always thought Bread & Butter pickles was a New England thing, having never heard of them before moving here oh-so-many years ago. But I read that actually they were trademarked by a couple in the Midwest during the Depression, who had a surplus of small cucumbers, made them this way, and used them to trade for commodities, like, wait for it, bread and butter. Apologies if I just told you something you already know.

Sorry to go on for so long, but it was a busy week! Thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for keeping the Harvest Monday tradition flourishing, allowing us to connect with other gardeners around the world. See you next time!