Monday, February 26, 2018

Harvest Monday - 26 February 2018

Once again we're crashing the Harvest Monday party with the only thing we "harvest" during the winter--maple syrup!

A period of warm(ish) days and cool nights stimulates the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) trees to start transporting sap up from their roots. The sap is not at all like pine sap, but really is water with +/- 1.5% sugar. The benchmark is 40:1 sap to finished product.

As has been the case in recent years, our warming period began in mid-February. On the 13th we placed the usual four taps in the large trees in front of the barn. I've described our small-scale process in detail in some older posts, so if you're interested you can look here, here, and here. Just 8 days later we had collected all the sap that we estimated we needed and removed the taps. The result was around two and a quarter quarts of light amber syrup, which The Kitchen Goddess canned in pint jars.

This is enough for our needs for the year. And, as always, the local high school's forestry students tap our "sugar bush" (maple grove) as they do in many other parts of town. This year we estimated they had 37 taps scattered around the property. They typically collect for a month, so if our 4 taps over eight days yielded a half-gallon, you can imagine what 37 for a month produces. At the end of the season they leave us a quart in payment--welcome, but not necessary. We enjoying having the "trespassers" in the woods. Too bad they have to hop a big stone wall carrying full buckets! But they're young.

Not only is there nothing like pure maple syrup on your pancakes and waffles, we get a kick out of doing it ourselves. Really all I do is drill some holes; TKG has the tedious job of tending the boil. I'm grateful!

Thanks for reading, and we will see you in the spring with green harvests! Thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for continuing to host Harvest Monday.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

We Visit The "Seed Bank" Again

We're back from a lovely two weeks in Northern California, visiting family and friends and drinking wine! From a gardening perspective, we examined the vegetable gardens at some wineries, and took another seed-shopping trip to Baker Creek's "Seed Bank" in Petaluma.

We were a little nervous about returning to our beloved Wine Country given the very recent terrible fires. Would our favorite places still be there?

While there's no way to overstate the devastation in some areas, our favorite and familiar wineries largely came through intact. The fires burned right up to within a few feet of the historic Buena Vista winery, and Chateau St. Jean had some damage to its beautiful buildings and grounds. But mostly everyone else was fine. Here's a picture of the land right behind Regusci Winery. You can see the burned mountainside and the scorched oak trees in the foreground (they might recover).

But the view from Joseph Phelps Winery is as gorgeous as ever.

Out of respect for the victims, I won't show pictures of the burned homes and melted cars. I can't imagine how that feels.

Knowing we were going to visit the Seed Bank, we made a shopping list and I even brought the big catalog to review on the plane. It's a few years old, but still very useful.

A rainy Sunday morning (the only day it rained) was a good time to drive to Petaluma. The Seed Bank is in a former Sonoma County National Bank, robustly built in 1925.

Inside, as always, the selection just takes your breath away.

I was in charge of the vegetable purchases.

The Kitchen Goddess chose the flowers.

We walked out $82.97 poorer, but much richer in spirit! And we got a good headstart on the seed purchases for next season.

If you visit Wine Country, and I hope you do for the sake of the communities, please take a trip to Petaluma. It's a cute little town, with a gardener's bonus!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Harvest Monday - 13 November 2017

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. After a blissfully mild start to Autumn, the weather turned sharply colder this past week. Temperatures were slated to dip down into the teens (F) at night. At that temperature, the upper layer of the soil quickly freezes. So that means harvest what you can while you can.

The leeks especially would be impossible to harvest in frozen soil, so we took all remaining (about 30). Considering we've been taking a few for quite some time, this was a great crop this year.

Carentan leeks
The Swiss chard, while it will survive light frosts, will not thrive at all, so we stripped the plants, leaving a growing tip just in case it decides to warm up again.

There was a small amount of pak choi, enough for a meal. This was the 3rd planting this year, and it got too late a start. Maybe just two next year.

Brisk Green pak choi
I had a horseradish plant growing in its own pot in the herb garden. I'd more or less ignored it for several years, but this year it really grew well. I dug it up, and found the main root had grown out the bottom of the pot and into the soil below.

Another casualty of the frost would be the raspberries, so here was the final picking of this bountiful crop.

So that looks to be it for 2017! I want to thank all readers of this blog, and a special thank-you to Dave of Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday for all of us to enjoy.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Harvest Monday - 30 October 2017

Just a short Harvest Monday update today.

We had a bumper crop of apples in 2015, picking 8 bushels. This meant that we (well, not me!) canned a lot of apple sauce, apple pie filling, etc. We still have plenty of that, but we discovered we were very low on dried apples. Thus, even though we were not going to pick any this year, we changed our minds. The result, a half-bushel of misshapen, spotty apples. But who cares about that when they are just going to be cut up and trimmed?

A harvest was made of leeks, chard, kale, daikon radish, and mint to create a hostess gift for the Halloween bonfire party we attended Saturday night. Gardeners are weird people.

The Kitchen Goddess also made the dessert--spooky creme horn mummies. Very creative, I thought.

That's all for this week. Thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Harvest Monday - 23 October 2017

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. We got the expected frost on Monday night, and quite a few plants were affected.

The eggplants were hardest hit. I took out all of them, and there were a few small fruits that could be harvested.

Looking at these now makes me highly suspicious of Dave's Patio Baby eggplants.

Most of the peppers had wilted too. I was able to get quite a few baby shishitos, and some Anaheims.

I just couldn't stand looking at the tomato vines any more, so they came out too, with some fruits taken to ripen indoors.

The last zucchini plant was almost dead but still had a nice fruit on it. Unfortunately I stepped on it. No picture.

The Kitchen Goddess has been braving thorns and bees to pick raspberries about every other day. We now have close to six pounds in the freezer.

Another leek had sent up a flower stalk, so I pulled it. Turns out it was really trying to reproduce, as it also made several small clones of itself at the base.

We still have lots of other leeks waiting to go through another frost or two. I want TKG to make cock-a-leekie soup. I've never had it before, and it sounds delicious. But mostly I'm looking forward to the opportunity to scream COCK-A-LEEKIE!!!!!! at the top of my lungs. Numerous times.

I harvested the last tatsoi.

And on Sunday I spent several surprisingly pleasant hours shelling the Floriani Red Flint corn. 

We got over 10 pounds of kernels. That's great, but nowhere near our 2014 harvest of 25 pounds, which I wrote about here. Unfortunately almost half of that crop molded in storage. The lesson was learned. Now I spread the kernels out to dry a further week or two.

We tied up the cornstalks into our sacrificial "witch pole," which will get the ceremonial torch once they dry out. Meanwhile I just like looking at it. Here's a view facing toward the house:

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and special thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday, and hopefully for not banning me from future posts!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Harvest Monday - 16 October 2017

Here's another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm.

We had a frost advisory mid-week. I harvested all the tomatoes showing any color, and covered the eggplants and peppers. As it turned out, while the air temperature never registered freezing, there was scattered frost on the roofs and random patches of the ground. I can't seem to figure out why.

Just prior to that, we took some things we needed, and The Kitchen Goddess made a goofy Mr. Red-Eye for me to photograph.

I harvested the rest of the Floriani Red Flint corn, which is now joining its brothers drying in the sunroom. Good thing, too, since we are totally out of cornmeal.

On Sunday we got another indication there will be close to a frost on Monday night. I figured it was time to bring in all the peppers and eggplants that were ripe or close to it. So here's a plethora of peppers and an abundance of aubergines:

Top row: generic hot cherry, Calabrese, Thai Hot, and Cherry Bomb. Bottom row: Big Jim, Maule's Red Hot, Hungarian Hot Wax, Anaheim, and Aruba (Cubanelle).
Clockwise from top left: Mitoyo, Rosita, Bride, Nadia, Ping Tung Long.

Now everything will just have to fend for itself.

I also took the two useable zucchinis, which we enjoyed that night my favorite way: Zucchini Smash, which is just the sliced fruit lightly steamed, then sauteed in butter with garlic and onions, slightly smashing as you go.

Cocozella di Napoli

Backing up slightly, on Saturday I picked all the Shishito peppers that were big enough for the grill, mostly one-biters but still delicious.

Mellow Star

TKG did a fantastic job quickly slicing and blanching the skinny eggplants, making 9 or 10 packages for the freezer. The globular eggplants we are going to fire-roast tonight, with the intention of making baba ganoush. Also the peppers suitable for chiles rellenos will be grilled.

But speaking of the freezer, I think I've mentioned that we are running 2 1/2 freezers here: a chest freezer in the barn, an upright in the utility room, and one under the fridge. All are full-to-bursting with this and prior years' vegetables and fruit. I would dearly love to empty one and stop using the electricity it takes. We spent some time on Sunday organizing things. The chest freezer had many bags of apples picked last year, with the intention of making more hard cider. But we still have several cases of cider from the year before. So I took those apples and distributed them out in the woods. Note to game wardens: I am just feeding the deer and most definitely not baiting them!

But still we have far too much frozen produce. We will try using the oldest ones in a mixed soup/puree and see how that goes. I guess it's another of those happy problems when you grow more than you can use or give away. But there's cost and effort involved in freezing them. That's why I like to grow things you can just dry and store in a closet: flint corn, beans, soup peas. I just have to plan the gardens better. Any ideas?

Thank you for reading, and thanks as always to Dave at Our Happy Acres for continuing to host Harvest Monday. Please join me there for a look at harvests all around the world.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Harvest Monday - 9 October 2017

Hello, and Happy Thanksgiving to readers in Canada! The week started cool and dry, but quickly turned warm and humid in advance of Tropical Storm Nate, now passing through as I write this Monday morning.

I start by showing the accumulated dried beans just before putting them away in storage. From left, Midnight Black Turtle, Sunset Scarlet Runner, and Kenearly Yellow-eye (a poor showing this year).

The remaining Silver Queen sweet corn was picked, and the stalks cut. Obsessive as I am, I counted 26 ears from 59 stalks. The Kitchen Goddess boiled them, cut the "niblets," and further boiled the cobs to make packages of creamed corn for the freezer. I learned that while it contains a lot of butter, there is no actual cream involved.

I took the first of the "Floriani Red Flint" dry corn, and also harvested the last of the black bean pods. Many of the corn cobs had been damaged by something, which causes mold around the penetration of the husk. This will have to be cut off before we can shell the cobs.

By the end of the week the bean pods were crisp enough to shell, a relaxing activity that gives a man time to think...mostly about beans. With this and the earlier picking, we have a lot of bean dishes in the future.

The sultry weather was good for tomatoes, although I have been getting a lot of drops.

Also in the picture are the first-of-the-year "Homemade Pickles" cucumbers, oddly misshapen. And some shishito peppers.

The weather was also good for peppers and eggplants, and the zucchini is still putting out fruit despite its powdery mildew problems.

TKG dehydrated all the accumulated hot red peppers to make red pepper flakes, an aromatic experience!

We took another "Winter Light" daikon radish. These are supposed to be mild, but we find them spicy, which is not a bad thing.

So many things from the garden went into this delicious weekend cook-out. The cucumbers became an Asian-style pickle appetizer (rice vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, and sesame seeds, in proportions I never do consistently). Zucchini and "Umberto" tomatoes made up one skewer. Shishito peppers are another. Finally, richly-herbed lamb and Cubanelle peppers are the main course. And as a garnish, a leek "scape," also grilled, which is crunchy and onion-y. All served with a wonderful Schug Pinot Noir from the Carneros district of Sonoma County. Quite a feast for a rare warm October night!

Lastly, the fall-bearing raspberries are coming on strong.

That's all for this week. As always, thanks for reading! And a big shout-out to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday!