Monday, August 8, 2022

Harvest Monday - 8 August 2022

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. We had another week of hot and humid weather, making all tasks even more difficult, but the harvests kept coming!

I took the first slicing tomatoes this week. This is a variety I was curious to try. It's from the "Heirloom Marriage" series, and is a cross between Brandywine and Costoluto Genovese. It's called "Genuwine"...get it? It's supposed to be much earlier and more productive than its parents, while maintaining all the taste. That's a lot to live up to! They certainly nailed the earliness, as my first Brandywine is only just starting to blush. 

Genuwine (hybrid)

We cut two thick slices and had them on BLTs. Their big bold taste really came through, and I can't wait to have another. We'll do a real comparison when the Brandywine ripens, but for now, I am very pleased with this tomato.

I also got the first "saladette" Juliet tomatoes. I've described them as one of our workhorses, and our Harvest Monday host Dave is smitten with them too.

Juliet (hybrid)

The first cayenne peppers ripened.

Cayenne (generic)

As did the first Ping Tung Long eggplants.

Ping Tung Long

"Bride" is a very beautiful hybrid eggplant. I've often wanted to enter it in the competition at the Deerfield Fair, but it tends to have small rusty blemishes which might disqualify it. This one, though, was perfect.

Bride hybrid eggplant

And I dug the first row of potatoes. These are Yukon Gold, and while it was not super-productive (some varmint dug up a lot of the tubers when first planted), most of them are of good usable size

Yukon Gold

Now on to general harvests. Here was Monday's, with zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli sideshoots, shishito peppers, and the last Romanesco.

Monday general harvest

Here was Wednesday's, with green and yellow zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, jalapenos, shishitos, pole beans, sweet corn, another Ping Tung eggplant, and in the middle the "Valentine" tomatoes.

Wednesday general harvest

The sweet corn was perfect in every way.

'Latte' hybrid sweet corn

The fridge was full again, so I cut up and blanched a lot for the freezer.

"Frenched" pole beans, romanesco, and zucchini

Here was Friday's harvest, with sweet corn, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, and Valentine tomatoes

Friday general harvest

I'm still trying to form an opinion on the Valentine tomatoes. They taste pretty good, and are meaty with thick skins. They are maybe half the size of the Juliets. The Kitchen Goddess made me a sort of "skillet moussaka" with ground beef, eggplants, potatoes, and the Valentines. It was really good, but she had to pick out the shed skins of the tomatoes.

Sunday's harvest had sweet corn (first planting winding down), cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, pole beans, and zucchini. You can see the size difference between Juliet (larger) and Valentine.

Sunday's general harvest

It's funny how cucumbers can go from "almost ready!" to "whoops!" overnight.

TKG picked at least a quart of blueberries on a hot Sunday morning.

Of course I have to feature one of the bountiful harvests from TKG's community garden plot.

Community garden harvest

So Thursday was the hottest of all, touching 100 F. inland. But I was offshore for the day! Since it has nothing to do with harvesting, I did a separate post on what I did, which was really exciting and unusual. Please check it out and tell me what you think: 

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and my continual thanks to Dave at for hosting Harvest Monday.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

A Visit to Celia Thaxter's Garden

Celia Laighton Thaxter was a well-known 19th Century poet, writer, and patron of the Arts. For most of her life, she lived on Appledore Island, the largest (95 acres) of several rocky islands making up the Isles of Shoals, which are located about six miles off the coast of New Hampshire/Maine. Besides her extensive writings, she was a hostess at her father's hotel on the island, and planted a cutting garden to provide flowers for it. She lived in a "cottage" next to her garden. The hotel burned in 1914, and her cottage burned as well.

Celia Thaxter In Her Garden by Childe Hassam

She published An Island Garden, which is still read today.

Appledore Island is the home of the Shoals Marine Laboratory, jointly administered by the University of New Hampshire and Cornell University. Its purpose is to conduct research in all phases of marine biology, and to provide an immersive educational experience for the students who live there.

A number of years ago, her garden was painstakingly recreated by the Laboratory, using the map and plant descriptions Celia provided in the book. People can visit the garden on certain days, and learn about her and her writings. The garden is maintained by island staff and Master Gardener Volunteers, which is where I come in.

On Thursday, August 4th, I was invited to participate with two others in the garden maintenance. It was an amazing experience. We had deadheading and watering to do before the next group of visitors arrived the next day. We worked fast, which left us time to explore much of the island.

After a COVID-19 test, we boarded R/V Gulf Challenger for the 1/2 hour ride to the island. (R/V means research vessel.)

All aboard!

We passed the Portsmouth Harbor Light.

Portsmouth Harbor Light and Fort Constitution

Soon the island drew near.

Appledore Island and buildings of the Shoals Marine Lab

The Army occupied the island during WW2 and built a fire control tower to assist in aiming the big guns guarding Portsmouth and Portland (Maine) harbors. Undoubtedly their activities helped destroy what remained of the garden.

Coast Artillery Fire Control Tower

Our Master Gardener leader, who has spent countless days on the island, gave me an overview and then we walked to the garden.

Celia Thaxter's Garden, recreated

We set to work. The garden is small but packed, with less than a foot between the raised garden beds. You had to tread very carefully. I can't imagine how Celia was able to work in it in those excessive 19th Century dresses.

After a nice lunch in the main dining hall provided by the Shoals staff, we finished our tasks. I began watering, which is probably what I'm best qualified to do, as I am not much of a flower gardener!

Your Humble Narrator, doing what he does best

Water on the island comes from a well, but a significant amount is provided by a desalination plant. The drip irrigation system for the garden comes from a rainwater collection system. As there's been little rain lately, the tanks were very low.

Rainwater collection system

The island has electric power provided by a diesel generator when needed, but mostly comes from an extensive array of solar panels with a battery bank, and a wind generator.

Here's another view of the garden from an observation deck built above the ruins of Celia's cottage. We got to meet the current "Artist in Residence" when she led her students in a Field Sketching session on the deck.

View of garden

Our work done, the leader escorted us to several interesting areas. Celia died suddenly on the island in 1894 (the year the book was published), and was buried in the tiny Laighton Family graveyard.

Laighton Family Cemetery

Celia's Grave

We visited rocky Broad Cove and several other places of interest.

Broad Cove

At 3:30 PM it was time to go back to the mainland on the waiting boat.

But we got an unexpected treat! The captain took us around the back side of the island, and past nearby Star Island and Smuttynose Island.

There are four private houses on Appledore. I don't know what they do for water and electricity.

Private houses on Appledore Island

Star Island and its big hotel

Smuttynose Island

Whaleback Light at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor

I returned home very tired and over-sunned, but the experience was one of a lifetime. Apparently I did okay, as I'm going back on August 18th! 

Monday, August 1, 2022

Harvest Monday - 1 August 2022

It's time for another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm. We enjoyed a respite this week from the relentless heat and humidity of the prior week. We did a lot of harvesting, so I'll try to keep the gab at a minimum. I'll start with the "first harvests" as usual.

The first tomatoes ripened. This is "Valentine," a saladette hybrid developed at Penn State University for earliness, Early Blight resistance, and high lycopene and brix levels. They sure are deep red, but neither of us found them particularly sweet. So I'm not sure yet it will be a replacement for Juliet.

Valentine tomato

I judged some of the sweet corn was ready, based on withered silks, fullness, and pulling away from the stalks. It was not. It had only a hint of sweetness. I should learn to overcome craving and just sample one.

Latte synergistic sweet corn

I picked the first of the two Romanesco plants I grew this year. The fractals always knock me out.

Puntaverde (F1) Romanesco

I pulled a few carrots, which we needed for a recipe. They are coming along nicely.

Mokum carrots

I love hot peppers that you don't have to wait for them to turn red to enjoy. I took the first Anaheim-types this week. There's actually two varieties here, but the differences are negligible.

Anaheim (OP) and Highlander (hybrid)

Same thing goes with the jalapenos...two varieties, small differences.

Early jalapeno (OP) and Goliath Jalapeno (hybrid)

I picked the first poblanos.

Open pollinated ancho/poblano

I had another case of the faded labels, so this one is a bit of a mystery. I think it's the hybrid Ancho Gigantia, but it sure doesn't grow like a poblano--the fruits point upward. 

Ancho Gigantia (?)

I pulled the last row of garlic. This is "Katterman," which always produces giant bulbs and giant cloves within. After these have dried and been cleaned, I'll show the entire garlic harvest and contrast them.

Katterman hardneck garlic

Now on to continuing harvests. I picked a full kilo of Sugar Rush Cream hot peppers from the overwintered plant.

Sugar Rush Cream

The Kitchen Goddess wasted no time preparing them for fermentation, using the "Basic Mixed-Media Mash" recipe from the excellent book Fiery Ferments.

Hot peppers fermenting in quart jar

She also gave the basil a good haircut. She gave away a lot of this, and dehydrated the rest. The kitchen smelled really good!

Genovese and Thai basil

She also did frequent light pickings of blueberries and raspberries.

Now for the "general harvest" pictures. This was Monday's, only collards and zucchini.

Monday general harvest

This was Wednesday's; more zucchini, cucumbers, shishito peppers, broccoli sideshoots, and pole beans

Wednesday general harvest

This was Friday's; zucchini, cucumbers, poblanos, Anaheims, and jalapenos.

Friday general harvest

And on Sunday, a harvest of one sweet corn, pole beans, salad greens, cucumbers, yellow and green zucchini, collards, broccoli sideshoots, scallions, and the next to last fennel bulb. In the middle are more tomatoes. The Garden Gods granted me my wish to have my own tomatoes and salad in one meal. Once. And also, the sweet corn was perfect. Strange how just a few days can make such a difference.

Sunday general harvest

Here's a sample of the harvests from the community garden plot shared by TKG and her Mom. Mom gets almost all the produce and is thrilled with it.

All of our poblanos and jalapenos were stuffed with hot Italian sausage and cheese, and wrapped with bacon, then slowly smoked. It's a lot, but we eat them for days. They're even good cold.

Smoky pepper feast

But I saved the real star for last. TKG brought home the first artichoke from the community garden. Mom does not get the artichokes, per TKG's rules.

Tavor artichoke

The heat returns this week. On Thursday, 100 is predicted. Too hot to do anything but water and harvest. And check for bugs. Thanks for reading, and thanks as always to Dave at for hosting Harvest Monday.