Monday, September 19, 2016

Harvest Monday - 19 September 2016

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. This week marked our first excursion below 50 at night. But we have other ways to mark the changing seasons. Our last sighting of "our" Ruby-throated hummingbirds was September 10. They are with us such a short time, starting in early May, but they bring us such joy! We've seen as many as five at one time. One of the nicest things we've done recently was to hang a feeder right off the screened porch (my office in the warmer months), as you can see in the picture below. It's so cool to see the birds hovering right outside, examining us with curiosity, when they are not busy drinking or chasing each other away (they are very territorial). We'll leave the feeders up another week or two, hoping to nourish the more-northern migrants as they pass through. We've seen a few.


Now on to harvests. Here is our first "Rosita" eggplant. The other eggplants have been giving us fruit for weeks, but Rosita is much slower. What it lacks in promptness and productivity, it makes up in loveliness I think.


Another first, a "Sugar Baby" watermelon. This is something of a joke, really. They are supposed to be petite, but 6 pounds, not 6 ounces! Sigh. We've never been able to grow a watermelon worthy of the name, but we keep trying.


Not a first-of-the-year, but a first-of-the-season picking of Asian greens. A smorgasbord of "oi's," you might say. From left, Toy Choy, Tatsoi, and Pak Choi. I realize now the photo is blurry, oops. 


Continuing harvest this week, starting with a muskmelon, a "Yellowfin" zucchini, and several "Rutgers" tomatoes.


An assortment of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. For those who inquired, we still have not had a hot example of "Mellow Star" shishito peppers.


Watermelon radishes, "Carson" yellow wax beans, a Cocozella Di Napoli zucchini, and another muskmelon.


A large picking of "Red Russian" kale and chard:


Finally, not a harvest, but something I find amusing. When I started eggplants this spring I noticed two of the pots had what looked like tobacco seedlings sprouting next to the "real" plants. I have no idea how the seeds got there. I mean, I am growing tobacco, but I really don't see how stray seeds got in with the eggplant. I left them, and now look at them! Doing much better than the tobacco I intentionally grew. And shading out the eggplants.


That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, and your comments. And thanks as always to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Harvest Monday - 12 September 2016

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Having gazed at this lovely sight as it developed for weeks and weeks, it was time to act!


This is a grape vine that long ago escaped its trellis and established itself on the garden fence. It was picked this week along with all its neighbors (60 row feet of vines). I'd guess we got 100 pounds.


Nice looking fruit, too:


No, I sadly don't know the varieties, but mostly they are seedless cultivars good for both table and wine. We of course choose the wine route, and pressed the grapes that day, resulting 5 1/2 gallons of juice, now fermenting.

Another welcome first harvest was a "Halona" muskmelon that had "slipped from the vine." At least that's what The Kitchen Goddess said when she brought it in. I have my doubts about that. It was about 95% ripe I'd say, but still very tasty.


Another first, our one pear! Normally we get about 30, but this year was challenging for tree-fruits.


Another first, a watermelon radish, shown with a wax bean for scale:


TKG added it to a small batch of kimchee she made with some Chinese cabbage recently picked.


Some other representative harvests this week:




Then, sadly, some definite last harvests. This corn was undersized and poorly pollinated, and the artichokes are tiny even by our standards, but we had them together for one last meal, and they were wonderful!


And we took all the rest of the spring-sown beets, if you can believe they've been in the ground that long. But they weren't too bad-looking!


That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, and as always, thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Vermont Stinks!

That's the motto of The Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival. It's an annual event held over Labor Day weekend in Bennington, VT, a nice little town. We attended it for the first time last year and had a great time, but found the 3 hour drive a bit much, so this year we decided to stay overnight in the area.


The venue is not huge, and can comfortably be thoroughly perused in a few hours. But there are many reasons to make a day of it, like if you are seeking garlic knowledge, enjoy shopping for crafts, or just want to listen to the many good bands while eating good food.


If you choose to enjoy the wide beverage selection, it's good to follow this advice:


I'd recommend skipping the garlic Bloody Marys. They are good, but the garlic pieces clog up the straw. Frustrating!

Of course you attend for the garlic, either for planting this fall or your culinary needs. And there are many booths with commercial growers supplying both, at attractive prices.




Note the "Garlic Antidote"


Did you know you can (sort of) braid hardnecks?


There were many garlic products. We really loved the scape pickles, and wish we had enough scapes to pickle ourselves.


How about chocolate garlic muffins?


There were also quite a few local micro-wineries and micro-distilleries on display. Watch out! The tiny sample sips add up!

Good advice!
This gentleman sells mushroom products. I told him he must be a very "fun guy," but he didn't react the way I thought he would.


More good advice:


After the event we visited the Battle of Bennington monument. This was a famous colonial victory in the War of Independence, actually fought 10 miles away in New York State. But the Redcoats and Hessians were on their way to Bennington to seize supplies and horses, so that's how it got its name and why it's here.


You can ride an elevator to the top. We decided to save that for next time.

We stayed at a really nice place, the Safford Mills Inn & Cafe, located on the opposite side of town from the festival. They aren't a B&B, they're an "A&A." What's that stand for? Accommodations and Aperitifs! Meaning no breakfast, but cocktails and light fare in the evening included in your room rate. That worked perfectly for us! We highly recommend it.


Next morning, on the way home, we stopped at the Hogback Mountain Overlook. They claim "100-Mile Views." I don't know about that, but the views are nice.


We were home Sunday morning, with plenty of time to do gardening. It was a great trip!

So what did we buy? Last year we bought Music, Georgian Fire, and German White seed garlic. All did very well. After trying many samples, we bought four new varieties this time.


Not too long before these get in the ground!

If garlic is your thing, we heartily recommend attending this festival, or seeking one out in your area.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Harvest Monday - 5 September 2016

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm! And Happy Labor/Labour Day to all North American gardeners, who undoubtedly will be laboring/labouring in their gardens today.

This weekend we went to the Vermont Garlic Festival, staying overnight this time. It was a ton of fun. I will probably be writing a post about it this week. When we got home on Sunday morning, it was time to get dirty. Very dirty, as the following shows.

Kennebec potatoes
The tally was 36 pounds (~16 kg.). This was much better than last year's 29, but still not as good as the year before (42).

There were other first harvests this past week. We got our first "Amish Paste" tomato:

Amish Paste

As I've said before, while others are getting bushels now, our plants are only producing ones and twos. Blame me for siting them poorly.

As I also said in a previous mid-week post, our Chinese cabbage was damaged by a rogue woodchuck. Damaged, but not destroyed, as it turns out. The plants recovered amazingly, and here's the result:

'Soloist' Chinese cabbage
The one on the right was over 2 pounds, the others are slightly under 2. Of course, I started 3 more plants when these were damaged, so there may yet be more cabbage.

Continuing harvests this week included a nice basket of solanacea. I had spotted another groundhog in the field where these were growing, so some of the tomatoes were taken a little under-ripe to protect them.


However, the groundhog (woodchuck, or whistle-pig if you prefer) suddenly passed away for some reason. So we are safe once again.

We're still getting lots of wax beans, Diva cucumbers, zucchini, and a few raspberries at a time. Here you see the Chief Produce Inspector making sure the corn was ripe.


We had another bountiful picking of chard, in the basket on the left:


The basket on the right included a generous, and final, picking of summer crisp lettuce. Here is is all laid out. These had also been damaged by the groundhog, but also recovered.


We are bidding a slow, sad goodbye to the Honey Select corn. We had several meals of 2 ears apiece, which is a luxury.

Honey Select corn
 The Kitchen Goddess and I were talking about which crop we most look forward to. For her, it's the artichokes (also now finished). For me, sweet corn is the thing I crave most. What is your favorite?

Next year I want to plant an early, a mid-season, and a late corn so I can indulge myself all summer long, without having to go to the farm stand, as we will probably do this year.

The other day I went out to the garden after TKG had spent some time there. I was startled to see balloons flapping over the grape vines:


Turns out she put them up to scare off birds from the nearly-ripe grapes. Or so she says. I think she secretly had a little birthday party for them.

So this week kicks off the Week of the Grape. Having bought a refractometer, she has judged the "brix level" and "acid balance" are just about right. Science is hard! I just taste them, and they are delicious. But she's the boss. Anyway, we will pick, crush, and press them very soon. Another vintage in the making.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading! Make sure to check out all posts on Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Harvest Monday - 29 August 2016

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. Here is this week's Harvest Monday update.

First-of-the-season harvests:

"Aruba" (Cubanelle-type) peppers. I thought having a kitchen knife would give them scale, but how big is the knife? Better to say they were hand-sized. They would eventually turn red, but I got tired of waiting, and worried they'd get damaged.


Perfect size for chiles rellenos. Yum!


We pulled all our onions (Stuttgarter). We only got 85, though I started with many more seedlings. And few were big. I think next year I'll go back to planting from sets--the tiny, weak seedlings are fragile and hard to handle, and sets are much easier to plant.


We judged it was time to pick our hops. Here you can see how daunting the task was.


Here's the result. Two window screens' worth. We had to spread the picking out over two days, especially since the first day was in the hot sun. Better to finish in the cool morning.


All this from a small vine planted four years ago. It just keeps coming back stronger and stronger, from the ground up. The variety is Mt. Hood, which is an aroma hop, as compared to a bittering hop. We added some to a sub-batch of our hard cider last year, and the result is very different and enjoyable. Of course, this is far more than we can possibly use ourselves. I'm going to see if I can trade the majority with one or the other of the local micro-breweries, for (what else?) beer!

Now, a last harvest. We bid so-long to Espresso corn, taking all the remaining small ears.


Some were starchy, but others were surprisingly good. Of course we couldn't eat them all in one sitting. The rest went into the freezer for the makings of corn chowder. I'm still hunting for an early (~70 day), cool-soil tolerant sweet corn.

Continuing harvests: Honey Select corn, Diva cucumbers, an artichoke, yellow wax beans, and zucchini.


I just had to show a picture of the Honey Select to compare with the Espresso above. I know I go on and on about how good it is, but it really is the best.


Tomatoes, eggplant, and more zucchini and Divas.


A colorful assortment of solanacea:


We had another batch of broiled shishito peppers. Again, no hot ones in the lot. And The Kitchen Goddess made Cowboy Candy with all our accumulated hot peppers.


She thought she had enough for three jars, but it was only two. What to do with the other jar of sauce? juice? whatever the heck you call the stuff the peppers were cooked in? We used some for a delicious sweet/spicy glaze for charcoal-grilled pork tenderloin.

And end-of week harvest. It's really nice that we still have lettuce this late in the season.


That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Please visit all the lovely Harvest Monday posts at Our Happy Acres, hosted by Dave. Thanks, Dave!